AALDEF Exit Poll Reveals Trends in Growing NJ Asian American Electorate
2005 Elections Data Includes Language Assistance, Party Enrollment, and Voting Barriers
In Fort Lee, NJ, days before the New Jersey primaries, the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF) today released the results of its exit poll of Asian American voters from the 2005 general election. The findings identified needs and trends within a growing electorate in the state with the fifth-largest Asian American community in the U.S.
Of the 329 individuals polled in English, Korean, Gujarati, and Chinese during the November 7 elections, more than one-third (37%) of Asian American voters polled expressed that they were limited English proficient, and over a third (35%) of all respondents needed an interpreter in order to exercise their right to vote.
Among Korean American voters polled, nearly all in Palisades Park and Fort Lee, NJ, close to three-quarters (71%) were limited English proficient and 60% voted with the help of an interpreter. 34% of Chinese voters and over a quarter (26%) of South Asian voters said they were limited English proficient. Close to a third (31%) of Indian Americans who spoke Gujarati, mainly in Edison, NJ, said they were limited English proficient.
A number of poll sites in New Jersey, such as in Bergen and Middlesex counties, voluntarily provided language assistance. Among first-time voters, 42% of Asian American respondents said they were limited English proficient and were the greatest beneficiaries of language assistance.
The exit poll results also revealed important trends among Asian American voters as the Congress considers bicameral legislation to reauthorize and possibly expand language assistance provisions, among other provisions of the Voting Rights Act scheduled to expire next summer.
According to respondents, a candidates position on issues was a more important factor in their decision than political party. Of the voters polled, the most important factor in deciding which candidate to support was: Stance on Issues (46%), Experience (24%), Political Party (22%), and Other (8%).
In the New Jersey gubernatorial race, 82% of Asian Americans cast their ballot for Democratic candidate Jon Corzine and 16% for Republican candidate Doug Forrestera 66-point margin. Among South Asian voters, 91% voted for Corzine and 6% voted for Forrester. Among Korean voters, 83% voted for Corzine and 17% voted for Forrester. Among Filipino voters, 64% voted for Corzine and 36% voted for Forrester.
Asian American voters also overwhelmingly supported Asian American candidates across ethnic lines. In Edison, where the mayoral race was decided by 273 votes, 97% of all Asian American respondents voted for Mayor Jun Choi. Among South Asian American voters, wholly 100% of all respondents voted for Jun Choi. Among Chinese American voters, 87% voted for Jun Choi.
Approximately one in four respondents was not enrolled in any political party (28%). More than half (56%) of respondents were registered Democrats, 12% were Republican, and 4% were enrolled in other parties.
The Asian American population in New Jersey grew by 95 percent from 1990 to 2000, to 527,594, but faced recurring obstacles while voting in the 2005 elections.
While Asian Americans are steadily increasingly their participation and representation in New Jersey government, many Asian Americans were not able to participate because of language barriers, said AALDEF Staff Attorney Glenn Magpantay. We call on the state of New Jersey to voluntarily expand language assistance to its voters.
Among the problems AALDEF poll monitors documented included:
At the Senior Citizens Center in Fort Lee, one Korean American voter was asked to show ID before she could vote. After voting, she reported that a person came up to her and asked in a harsh tone if she was eligible to vote, and demanded to know her ethnicity. Another Korean American who had been voting since 1985 had his eligibility challenged.
Poll workers insisted that a number of Asian American voters (at least a dozen in Edison and Jersey City) show identification before being allowed to cast a ballot, even though several who had voted in previous elections were not affected by HAVA voter identification provisions for new voters.
In Jersey City, after two Korean American voters cast their ballots, a partisan challenger asked for and mocked the name of one Korean American voter named Hung, asking the poll site, Have you ever hung a voters surname? The challenger continued to ridicule the voters name with a song, in the presence of other waiting voters and site poll workers, who failed to rebuke the challenger.
AALDEF surveyed Asian American voters at eight poll sites in Edison, Fort Lee, Jersey City, and Palisades Park. Of the respondents, 40% were South Asian (Indian, Pakistani, or Indo-Caribbean), 28% were Korean, 17% were Filipino, 13% were Chinese, and 2% were Other Asian.
AALDEFs survey results were released today with the assistance of the Korean American Voters Council of NY/NJ.