Swing voters or no-shows?

It has been a couple of weeks now since Republicans upset the Democrats in the New Jersey and Virginia governor’s races. Both of these states went for Barack Obama in 2008. There were two simple explanations debated among the pundit class (although in politics the reality is never simple): 1) The incumbent in New Jersey and the democratic nominee in Virginia were exceptionally poor candidates. One (Corzine) was very unpopular and the other (Deeds) was just too unpolished a candidate. 2) Independents are very discontent with Obama and this is a sign that the country is turning toward Republicans and Republican ideals

A writer at the little-known Washington Examiner culled the polling data and has come up with another theory: it’s the Indian American voters swinging that is responsible:

As I drilled down in http://www.nj.com/politics/map/ the election results by city, borough and township, I saw that Christie carried Woodbridge Township by a 51%-42% margin and Edison Township by 49%-45% margin. These are the largest jurisdictions in the county, with about 100,000 people apiece, and Woodbridge was the political base of Jim McGreevey, who was elected governor in 2001 and resigned in 2004 after it was revealed that he had made his male lover head of the state homeland security department. Then I recalled that Middlesex County these days has an unusually large percentage of residents, 18%, who classify themselves to the Census Bureau as Asian. That’s one of the highest figures outside Hawaii and the San Francisco Bay area. And according to these figures from the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey Edison township’s population is 36% “Asian only,” as compared to 49% “white only” and 7% Hispanic, while. Woodbridge township’s population is 19% “Asian only,” as compared to 66% “white only” and 15% Hispanics. The two township’s “black only” percentages are 10% and 9%. In other words, Asians are the largest and most visible minority in Edison and Woodbridge Townships–and are apparently largely of one source, Edison in 2000 had the highest percentage of Indian-ancestry residents, 18%, of any jurisdiction with more than 1,000 Indian-ancestry residents in the nation. Following it on the list were Iselin (part of Woodbridge Township), Plainsboro Township (in southern Middlesex County, adjacent to Princeton), Dayton (a part of South Brunswick Township in Middlesex County) and Avenel (part of Woodbridge Township).

What I think we are looking at is an upscale Indian cluster, around the pharmaceutical, scientific and technical firms in central New Jersey. These people appear to be upscale demographically; the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey reports that Middlesex County foreign-born residents (48% of whom are Asian, 26% Hispanic and 6% black) have a higher percentage of over-$75,000 earners than Middlesex County native-born residents, a higher percentage in management and professional occupations, a lower percentage of people in poverty, higher mean earnings, and nearly twice as high a percentage with graduate degrees and more likely to be in married couple families.

All this evidence strongly suggests that Republicans made gains and Democrats suffered significant losses among Asian, and specifically among Indian-American voters, in Middlesex County. This upscale group, ready enough to vote for John Kerry in 2004 and Barack Obama in 2008, seems to have been repelled by New Jersey’s high taxes and big government under Jon Corzine. There should be some lessons here for Republicans generally–and for Democrats as well. [link]

If this is true then I blame Corzine for not showing up to the parade. The article also points out the following with regards to the Virginia race:

Plus, down in Virginia, Fairfax County, which is 16% “Asian only” and which like Middlesex County voted 60%-39% for Barack Obama, voted 51%-49% for Republican Governor-elect Bob McDonnell. McDonnell campaigned heavily in Fairfax’s immigrant communities and clearly made some inroads there. [link]

There is of course another, equally dramatic, conclusion one can make using the statistics cited by the author of this article. Maybe Asian American voters just didn’t show up to vote. It was an off-year election. Even if that is the case, it goes to show you just how important the South Asian American electorate is becoming in many parts of the country. By NOT showing up to vote our community can swing the outcome of an election.

8 thoughts on “Swing voters or no-shows?

  1. Abhi, two excellent posts today. I would like to echo the importance of showing up to vote in off year elections. In my town, poor voter turn out led to the re-election of an unpopular mayor! Keep up the good work!

  2. Abhi (I tingle for Obama therefore I am) – it really chaffs your behind to think that there could be a significant Indian bloc that would give up their chutney before voting Democratic huh? But, hey, you could be right – perhaps maybe asian american voters just did not show up to vote. That would be typical fare of Democrats resting on wreaths won during a previous election. However, being a resident of NJ and knowing that everyone in my circle of republican and democrats (yes, democrats!), did go out to vote, it would seem to me that our community voted to swing the election in the favor of the Republicans.

  3. However, being a resident of NJ and knowing that everyone in my circle of republican and democrats (yes, democrats!), did go out to vote

    You are usually so surly on these boards that I have to doubt your real life circle is very large. In which case your data point is just that: a point.

  4. Could ineffective massive debt spending, and double digit employment, have annything to do with the outcome…..Nah..it couldn’t. That’s right its the South Asians staying home

  5. As #4 said, this seems like reaching a bit too far than to accept the more obvious issues that played a major factor in how these races played out. I think we’ll see more confrmation of that in 2010 the way things are going.

  6. I think McDonnell won a majority of the Asian vote in Virginia; so it’s not just an issue of not showing up.

  7. Make of it as you will…..

    Asian Voter Voted Overwhelmingly for Governor-Elect Robert “Bob” McDonnell Fairfax County Virginia—The League of New Voters (LNV), which was founded in the Spring of 2009 in response to the needs of new voters who are naturalized U.S. citizens, conducted a month long nonpartisan telephone survey (Oct 1, 2009 to Nov 3, 2009) to assess Asian voters’ outlook on the Virginia gubernatorial and House of Delegate elections. A survey of 16,293 registered Asian American voters in twelve legislative districts in Northern Virginia, where the Asian population is as high as 21% (LD39) of general population, showed that an average of 58.5% voted for Bob McDonnell the governor-elect. Furthermore, Asian American voter turn out was highest among Chinese and Vietnamese Americans on Election Day 2009, but it may take months before the Board of Elections releases an exact figure. As a point of reference, in Election 2008, Asian Americans voter turnout in Virginia reached a historic high of 61% according to the Richmond Times-Dispatch newspaper (07/2009). Virginia’s Asian American votes made a key difference in this contest and reversed the trend of Election 2008 where Asian Americans voted by a big margin for Obama – according to the Asian American Legal Defense Fund. Voter education, strategic communications in native Asian languages and dedicated outreach efforts by candidate McDonnell were key factors for earning the Asian votes, and determining the outcome of this race. The League of New Voters applaud Asian voters of Virginia for actively participating in this historic election and we look forward to working with the McDonnell Administration to ensure that Asian Americans interests in Virginia are accurately represented. We commend the candidates for their efforts. The League of New Voters will continue to be a resource to office seekers so that they can more fully engage the growing Asian American communities in the political process. ###