Asked to name the top challenge facing Miami-Dade County, one in five non-Hispanic white voters pick traffic congestion. Black voters have a far more grim worry: children being shot and killed.
A new Miami Herald survey found a stark racial divide when it comes to Miami-Dade’s problems. Only 5 percent of non-Hispanic whites, the most prosperous among the county’s three major ethnic groups, selected youth violence as a top concern. But about one in three of black respondents picked that as the No. 1 challenge facing the county — another measure of how gun violence can be a daily fear in some neighborhoods and only a remote possibility in others.
“People who can get on expressways, and drive by troubled communities and areas, they don’t understand what’s happening in those neighborhoods,” said Dennis Moss, the senior black member of the Miami-Dade County Commission. “They don’t have to deal with drive-by shootings. They don’t have to deal with people getting killed every couple of days. That happens to somebody else.”
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The poll by Bendixen & Amandi International for the Miami Herald, el Nuevo Herald, WLRN and Univision 23 found that, overall, youth gun violence tied the economy for the top concern among all participants in the survey of 600 Miami-Dade voters. Though the violence topic barely registered among non-Hispanic white participants, it was the No. 2 pick among Hispanic voters, boosting it to the top of the overall list.
But the ethnic breakdown of the question offered a glimpse into the concerns motivating various voting blocs as the 2016 county elections approach this summer and the presidential contest looms in the fall. The pollster behind the survey said such a wide gap between black and white voters signals a startling disagreement on priorities.
“It’s extraordinarily unusual,” said Fernand Amandi, managing partner of the Coral Gables firm that conducted the poll of 600 county voters last week. “This is an issue that’s struck a nerve with the African-American community. That community is crying out that this issue needs to get more attention than any other.”
The poll, conducted in English and Spanish from May 1-4, found broad dissatisfaction with how county leaders are handling challenges. Only 28 percent of respondents said they were satisfied with how the county was tackling traffic, compared to 18 percent for youth gun violence, and 15 percent for sea-level rise. The poll had a margin error of plus or minus 4 percentage points.
When it came to child shootings, Miami-Dade voters overwhelmingly turn to families themselves for solutions. When the survey asked who is most responsible for addressing youth gun violence, 55 percent picked parents. Police finished a distant second at 9 percent.
Hispanic voters made up the majority of the survey, accounting for 56 percent of the 600 participants.
Hispanics viewed youth gun violence and the economy with almost the same amount of concern: 20 percent picked the economy, and 18 percent picked violence. And while almost 20 percent of black and non-Hispanic white voters also picked the economy as their top concern, gun violence scored higher with black voters than did any other category in any other ethnic group.
Census and crime data show that Miami-Dade’s black population, which includes African-Americans and Caribbean-Americans, is most likely to face both poverty and a child’s death through gunfire.
Since 2010, about 70 percent of the gun-death victims under the age of 20 were black, according to data from the county’s medical examiner’s office, even though black residents make up about 17 percent of the county’s population of 2.6 million people. Black residents also account for an outsized proportion of poverty in Miami-Dade: the poverty rate for the black population was 29 percent, compared to 21 percent for Hispanics and 12 percent for non-Hispanic whites.
Keytorri Partlow, 22, lost her younger brother, Demonte, in a shooting three years ago. He was 17. She lives in Homestead, and sees guns and retaliation shootings as a part of life for children and families in her neighborhood. “It’s an everyday event,” she said. “It’s more kids getting killed than adults.”
Partlow, who helps run the non-profit called Mothers Fighting for Justice, said she wasn’t surprised by the racial gap in the Herald survey or how the economy finished a distant second on the list of black voters’ concerns.
“Compared to gun violence?” asked Partlow, who works as a customer-service representative. “The biggest thing in our community now is they want to end the shootings.”
Miami Herald staff writer Christina Veiga contributed to this report.