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GRAND RAPIDS, Mich.Native News Online today released the results of a national survey of its Native American readers and Indian Country leaders that shows overwhelming support for Democratic nominee Joseph R. Biden for President in the upcoming election. 

The survey of 519 American Indians and Alaska Natives from more than 200 tribes found that 68 percent of those polled plan to support Mr. Biden for president, with just 15 percent planning to support President Donald J. Trump. Nearly 10 percent of respondents said they were still undecided or not sure about who to support in the Nov. 3 election.  

Third-party candidates Jo Jorgenson (Libertarian) and Howie Hawkins (Green) each received about 1 percent of the respondents’ support, while Navajo citizen Mark Charles, an Independent candidate for president, received support from 3 percent of the survey’s respondents. 

Native News Online conducted the online poll of its readers and Indian Country leaders over a one-week period in early October. In addition to strong support for Mr. Biden as president, the survey also revealed:  

  • Native-specific issues such as tribal sovereignty, the protection of sacred sites and tribal water settlement rights were among the top concerns listed by the survey respondents. 
  • More than 6 in 10 Native voters expressed high levels of confidence in Mr. Biden’s capability to address the issues important to Native voters and Indian Country as a whole. 
  • In addition to support from Native voters who listed their political affiliation as Democrat, Mr. Biden also won support from Native voters who said they are Independent or Republican.    

While not a national probability sample of all Native American voters, the survey offers insight into the voting habits and preferences of registered Native American voters, who could provide the margin of victory in seven “swing states” in the upcoming election: Arizona, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, North Carolina, Wisconsin and Colorado, according to Four Directions, a Mission, S.D.-based nonprofit organization committed to advancing equality at the ballot box across Indian Country.  

The American Indian and Alaska Native population is one of the fastest-growing population groups in the country. Between 2000 and 2010, the number of people who identified as AI/AN, including those of more than one race, increased 27 percent to 5.2 million — nearly three times faster than the total U.S. population. As of 2017,  the number of people who identify as AI/AN, including those of more than one race, grew to an estimated 6.7 million, or approximately 2 percent of the total U.S. population.

In the survey, 26 percent of all respondents said they had already voted. Of the remaining respondents who had not voted yet, 95 percent said they were registered to vote. That is significantly higher than national estimates of eligible Native voters who are registered to vote, suggesting a high level of political engagement by survey respondents.  

Of the survey respondents who had not yet voted, 35 percent said they planned to cast their vote by mail, while 56 percent said they planned to vote in person. Nine percent said they were still undecided. 

Asked if they expect to encounter obstacles that might prevent them from voting, 84 percent said they didn’t expect any obstacles. Among respondents that indicated expected obstacles that might prevent them from voting, 6 percent answered COVID-19, nearly 2 percent answered “don’t have transportation” and 1 percent identified “distance to voting site.” A few voters wrote in specific concerns about voter intimidation from Trump supporters or armed militias, while one voter noted: “Don’t want dishonest Democrats stealing an election!” 

When asked about the top three issues that matter most to them as voters, nearly 64 percent of respondents selected tribal sovereignty, the right of American Indians and Alaska Natives to govern themselves. The Constitution recognizes tribes as distinct governments that have, with few exceptions, the same powers as federal and state governments to regulate their internal affairs.

The survey’s responses also identified several other leading concerns, including health care (46 percent), the environment/global warming (43 percent), jobs/economy (36 percent), protection of sacred sites (34 percent), COVID-19 response (33 percent) and tribal water settlement rights (32 percent) among the top seven choices.  

More than half of the respondents shared comments about the issues that matter most to them in an open-ended question at the end of the survey, including dozens of comments about tribal sovereignty, self-determination and treaty rights. One respondent from a tribe in Massachusetts stated: “Tribal Sovereignty is everything. We have governed ourselves since time immemorial without the interference of outsiders. If the local, state and federal governments stay out of the way, Tribes can return to self sufficiency.”  

On the topic of the presidential candidates, six in 10 respondents chose Mr. Biden as their answer to a number of questions, including:

  • Which candidate is most capable of addressing issues important to you and your family? 
  • Which candidate shares your values the most?
  • Which candidate will do best at taking care of issues important in Indian Country? 
  • Which candidate cares more about Indian Country? 

Asked to identify their political affiliation, 48 percent selected Democrat, 14 percent selected Republican, and 20 percent selected Independent.  The remaining respondents identified a third party or answered “none of the above.” 

Native News Online conducted the online survey of its readers and Indian Country leaders using the SurveyMonkey platform.  The survey took place between Oct. 8 and Oct. 16, 2020. All respondents were asked to supply their tribal affiliation and state of residence. Nearly 700 responded to the survey, and participant responses were filtered out for a number of reasons including lack of tribal affiliation, incomplete survey responses and non-U.S. citizenship.  

The results reflect data gathered from 519 respondents from more than 200 tribes in 46 states.  The majority of the respondents were either Native News Online readers or tribal leaders who were solicited via email; this poll is not a national probability sample of Native Americans. 

More than 58 percent identify as female, 39 percent identify as male and the remainder answered non-conforming, not listed or prefer not to answer. More than 93 percent of the respondents are over the age of 35.  

Native News Online conducted the survey with assistance and consultation from Stephen Hersh, a lecturer on consumer insight at Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism who also spent 23 years as a market researcher and marketing strategist at Leo Burnett Advertising. 

Download the survey results.

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