The outcome of the upcoming U.S. mid-term elections has extraordinary implications for Ukraine. This has been underlined by Ukrainian Congress Committee of America (UCCA) President Andriy Futey in his statement, “We strongly encourage our Ukrainian American community to exercise their right to vote and make their voice heard. Do not sit back and watch from the sidelines. Make your voice heard by making sure you and your fellow supporters of Ukraine register to vote this November.”
Voting in these elections is very important for two reasons: a) support of Ukraine is not a Democratic or Republican party issue anymore, it cuts across party lines and boils down to the individual position of politicians of both parties; b) elections are often decided by a small difference in votes.
Two key factors in a political candidate’s calculations during an election campaign are money and the number of votes. The Ukrainian community cannot compete in the money department but has, in quite a few instances, the potential of influencing the outcome of an election.
Data on voting behavior is not available for Ukrainians, but we have basic official statistics that can be used to inform political candidates at all levels of the voting potential of Ukrainians in different communities. The Center for Demographic and Socio-Economic Research of Ukrainians in the U.S. at the Shevchenko Scientific Society has been working for years on the construction of a comprehensive database on persons of Ukrainian ancestry in the U.S. This database has three advantages: a) it is composed of official U.S. government data; b) it allows one to make very detailed tabulations and analyses; c) it is updated on a regular basis.
Two years ago and several months before the presidential elections, we posted on the center’s website (http://inform-decisions.com/stat/) data from the 2013 American Community Survey (ACS ) on the number of potential Ukrainian voters. Potential voters are defined as persons of Ukrainian ancestry, U.S. citizens, those age 18 years or older. Currently we are processing the 2016 ACS data and updating our database. Here we present 2016 data on the number of potential Ukrainian voters for different geographical units and by several characteristics.
There were 722,000 potential Ukrainian voters in 2016, with 52 percent of them females and 26 percent age 65 years or more. This high percentage of older persons is important, as studies have shown that older people tend to vote in much higher proportions than young people.
Table 2 presents data for 16 states with at least 12,000 potential Ukrainian voters, ranging from 12,200 in North Carolina to 101,900 in New York State. The full table with all states can be found on the center’s website. The data is by sex, and the last column of the table shows the percentage potential Ukrainian voters represent of the total number of potential voters in the state. In four of these 16 states, potential Ukrainian voters make up .5 percent or more of all potential voters: Oregon, 0.5 percent; Washington State, 0.6 percent; New York State and New Jersey, 0.8 percent each; and Pennsylvania, 0.9 percent.
Table 3 presents similar information as Table 2 but by age groups: 18-24, 25-64 and 65 or more. It includes percentages of persons in the youngest and oldest age groups. As expected, Arizona and Florida have the highest percentages for seniors, 41.2 and 37.5 percent, respectively. Percentages of potential young voters vary from 4.3 percent in Arizona to 28.4 in Oregon.
Table 4 has numbers of voters by age groups for 15 Metropolitan Areas (MAs) with 10,000 or more potential Ukrainian voters, ranging from Baltimore with 10,500 to New York MA with 110,500. Data for all MAs with at least 1,000 potential Ukrainian voters can be found on the center’s website. Potential Ukrainian voters surpass 1 percent of all potential voters in three of these 15 MAs: Philadelphia, 1.0 percent; Cleveland, 1.1 percent; and Pittsburgh, 1.2 percent. Among potential voters age 65 years or more, Miami has the highest percentage with 38 percent, followed by Los Angeles with 33 percent and New York with 30 percent. For the youngest age group, Sacramento and Portland have the highest percentages of potential voters with 20.5 and 22 percent, respectively.
Data for Ukrainians is not available by Voting Districts, but it is available for many counties. For example, Table 5 shows the counties of the state of Ohio for which data is available.
We have data for 21 of Ohio’s 88 counties; 76 percent of all potential Ukrainian voters in the state reside in these 21 counties. In most counties their relative percentage is very small, but in two counties they represent more than 1 percent of all potential voters: Cuyahoga, 1.3 percent, and Medina, 1.9 percent. This type of data can be estimated for all states.
A second area of expansion of this type of data is to estimate the numbers of potential voters of all or most East European ethnic groups in the U.S., or for specific ethnic groups. Official statistics show that in some areas of the country there is potential for powerful voting blocs. For example, in 2013 the number of potential voters of almost all East European groups comprised more than 5 percent of all potential voters in the U.S., and in several states more than 10 percent. These data can provide useful information for exploring joint voting strategies with other East European ethnic groups.
We hope to have the resources needed for preparing this more detailed set of tabulations in the near future. The data can be used to inform the candidates on the voting potential of Ukrainians in different communities and suggest that their vote may depend on the candidate’s answer to the question “What is your policy position regarding Ukraine?”
Oleh Wolowyna is the director of the Center for Demographic and Socio-Economic Research of Ukrainians in the U.S. and Research Fellow at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.