The Electoral Importance of Black Women in South Carolina

The Electoral Importance of Black Women in South Carolina

A woman holds a sign during a protest in Atlanta, May 2019 | Getty/Elijah Nouvelage



Later this week, voters in South Carolina will cast their ballots in the state’s Democratic presidential primary. While seven candidates will appear on the ballot, the one who wins the most support from Black women will likely emerge victorious. Black women represent more than 1 in 4 of all eligible female voters in South Carolina and as many as 37 percent of Democratic primary voters. But they are not single issue voters and the candidate who takes the time to learn and address their unique policy priorities will stand the best chance of winning. 

The Electoral Power of Black Women in South Carolina

Black voters, especially Black women voters, play a significant role in shaping the outcome of the South Carolina Democratic presidential primary. While Black people constitute 13 percent of the U.S. population, they are 28 percent of eligible voters in South Carolina. In 2016, more than 1 in 3 of South Carolina’s Democratic primary voters were Black women.  

Despite rampant voter suppression, Black women continue to vote at higher rates than their white counterparts (Figure 1). Recent evidence suggests Black women are poised for record turnout in 2020. In the 2018 midterms, Black women’s turnout increased 15 percentage points compared to the previous midterm elections. By contrast, white voter turnout increased by just 8 points. A recent analysis found that women of color also fuel turnout in their communities by mobilizing friends and family and engaging voters beyond the ballot box. In other words, their engagement has a multiplying effect. If Black women’s surge persists, they will substantially affect the outcome of this month’s primary contest. 


Figure 1: November Election Turnout Among Vote-Eligible Women in South Carolina (2008-2018)






















Source: Authors’ analysis of Sarah Flood and others, "Integrated Public Use Microdata Series, 2008–2018 Current Population Survey, Voting and Registration Supplement” (Minneapolis: Minnesota Population Center, 2018), available at


The Policy Views of Black Women in South Carolina

Black women are among the largest and most consistently engaged demographic groups in South Carolina politics. Yet few analyses of voter preferences have focused specifically on these voters. A new CAP analysis of AP VoteCast data helps to illustrate some of their priorities:

  • 31 percent consider healthcare the most important issue facing the country, followed by the economy and jobs (23 percent) and gun violence (14 percent). 
  • 83 percent believe government has a responsibility to provide healthcare to those who need it. 
  • 82 percent believe the current economic system unfairly benefits the wealthy and 94 percent believe the economic system does not favor the poor enough. 
  • 88 percent want policy makers to enact stricter gun laws