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Who Was Standing in Those Long NY Voting Lines?

November 7, 2008

New York, NY — While voters across the state reported long lines on Election Day, the New York Board of Elections reports local turnout was only up slightly. What happened? A major new exit poll of nearly 5,000 New York City voters provides an answer. Reportedly, most of the long lines were formed by black and Latino voters who turned out in large numbers for Obama, while some voters in white majority districts simply stayed home.

Barnard College Political Science Professor Lorraine Minnite says the exit poll saw a major increase in new voters in New York, including many immigrants.

"We saw a surge in first-time voting among youth; that was consistently across the country. But, in New York, immigrants made up about 40 percent of that group of people who said it was the first time they were ever voting."

While immigrants were the driving force among new voters this election, John Mollenkoph who heads up the Center for Urban Research at the City University of New York, says there were distinctions. He says some immigrant voters were more excited about voting than others.

"Afro-Caribbean immigrants were very enthusiastic about the election, as were people from the Dominican Republic. The Asian groups, Chinese, Korean and so-forth, were less enthusiastic and the whole question of whether the campaigns could have done a better job reaching these voters, is a very interesting one, I think"

Immigrants had the same reasons for turning out as native born New Yorkers, Minnite adds. Both listed their top concerns as jobs, the economy, health care and the war in Iraq. The poll was conducted by the University Collaborative New Americans Exit Poll Project. Early turnout results showed a 13-percent increase in black majority districts, 5.4-percent increase in Latino majority districts and a 6.6-percent decrease in white majority districts.

The exit poll also found 55 percent of immigrants disapprove of the measure to extend the city’s term limits, which is similar to native born New Yorkers. At the state level, it found immigrants were less satisfied with the performance of Governor David Paterson, giving him only a 40-percent approval rating.

Michael Clifford/Mike Clifford, Public News Service - NY