Introducing the BIRN: Black Insights Research Newsletter


The Black community is a cornerstone of American democracy in many ways, fighting for it at every turn. For instance, Black people have fought on behalf of democracy, participating in all of America’s wars—most notably the Civil War, and both world wars—as second-class citizens. In each case, democracy, American and otherwise, was at stake. The Black community’s struggle for freedom forced the country to move closer to realizing its democratic ideals, which benefited all ethnic groups. The Black struggle continues because race-based disparities persist. And even in the face of those disparities, in 2020, the Black community (black women) essentially saved American democracy once again by turning out in historic numbers to support Joe Biden’s run for the presidency.

Yet, today the Black community must share a country in which many of their white compatriots who, driven by what boils down to cultural threat, attempt to dilute the Black vote through gerrymandering, or strip it all together through voter suppression. And, while this country built its wealth on the backs of Black people, white wealth outpaces Black wealth by roughly 800 percent. Relative to the white community, the Black community also has always endured poorer health outcomes, a pattern that continues in the aftermath of COVID-19. This is to say nothing about the ways in which racism takes a toll on the mental health of the Black community, and how it contributes to what amounts to modern-day lynchings under color of authority.

How much longer is the Black community willing to serve as a bulwark of American democracy when faced with perennial precarity? Will Black people turn out to support a president (and his party) that’s not made good on campaign promises?

We intend to provide answers. As professional social scientists (tenured professors) who identify as Black, we founded Black Insights Research (and the Black Insights Research Newsletter) to apply cutting-edge social-science research to issues and policies that affect the Black community, research with the potential to mobilize (or demobilize) this community. In a closely-divided electorate, with a razor-thin margin of victory, Black turnout can be dispositive. Our professional standing and independence provides us the liberty to follow the data, absent fear or favor, wherever it leads.

Rigorous theory, methods, and deep knowledge of history paves the way for us to publish in leading academic journals and presses. We introduce this approach to studying Black politics and preferences to the public domain, especially political practitioners, with two overarching goals: one descriptive, the other prescriptive. On the descriptive side, we aim to measure Black policy preferences with precision, using well-vetted survey questions and time-tested research methods. On the prescriptive side, by drawing heavily on history and social-scientific methods, we supply practitioners and other interested parties with accurate predictions of Black behavior and policy preferences.

We see Black Insights Research (and the BIRN) as resources to which the public and practitioners may turn for rigorous assessments of Black public opinion and political behavior. In the immediate future, we aim to answer important questions, such as what does the Black community really think about President Biden? To what extent do Black voters support the Democratic Party? What’s the best way to mobilize the Black community? What issues are most important to the Black community as we enter the 2024 general election cycle? Please tune in to the BIRN (Black Insights Research Newsletter) to find out. Our first issues will provide an assessment of the Democratic Party’s strategy vis-à-vis the Black community. This includes its current strategy, and our recommendations based on our own research.

Since the Black community is our priority—not an afterthought—we take care to have more than enough Black respondents in our samples. This permits us to conduct rigorous analyses, ones that move well beyond the oft-used frequency distributions and cross tabulations in these spaces. Indeed, modeling outcomes of interest paves the way for cleaner results, ones that the public and practitioners can trust.

In the weeks to come, the BIRN will feature new and innovative research that aims to answer questions about Black politics that are hotly debated yet rarely examined based on hard evidence. Drawing on qualitative and quantitative designs—including panel studies, as well as experiments—forthcoming issues of the BIRN will offer reports on:

  • The Black Voter and the 2024 Elections: Democrats’ Strategy, and an Alternative

  • Black Candidate Preferences: An Experimental Approach

  • The Black Voter and the 2024 Elections: Focus Group Summary

  • The Black Voter and the 2024 Elections: Final Survey

  • Black Voters Over Time: A Longitudinal Approach to the 2024 Elections  


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