The Blue Block? A Look At Asbury Park Voters

Community, Listening Post

The Blue Block?

Although it’s not as large of a city as Newark or Trenton, Asbury Park can be seen as a microcosm of New Jersey. With a high population density (Asbury’s population density is roughly 836% higher than New Jersey’s overall according to data from the US Census Bureau), many different kinds of people are in town to work, live, and play no matter the season.

By just walking around a single block, you’ll meet anyone from long-time locals to summer visitors to first-time renters to working families, which is exactly what we found when we walked the around the blocks between Bond St. and Emory St. and Asbury Ave. and 2nd Ave., just east of Main Street, on the eastern side of Asbury Park to speak with neighbors for the Voting Block project.

 

The Voting Block

Voting Block is a statewide collaborative reporting initiative that is working together to bridge the political fissures that have developed in a deeply divided nation and support more civil civic dialogue. “Political Potlucks” are being organized across New Jersey to spark constructive conversations about politics ahead of the 2017 gubernatorial election. You can think of these potlucks like block parties, where neighbors get together to talk about what’s going on in and around town and what the state should do about it.

Voting Block’s goals are simple: to create more civic political discourse, make your priorities heard, and get your questions answered. To achieve these goals, we’re hosting our own Political Potluck in order to bring neighbors together to talk as well as help us better cover the issues and news that you care about.

For our Political Potluck, we wanted to gather a group of people that could represent different parts of our varied population. So we looked to Asbury Park, a place where the population and opinions are diverse, to be the focus for our Voting Block project.

 

Who is Asbury Park?

Asbury is a physically younger city, with a median age around 33 years old versus New Jersey’s median age of about 39. Asbury’s neighboring towns (like Ocean Grove, Interlaken, Loch Arbour, and Neptune) all have median ages in the 40s and 50s.

Asbury is also more diverse in terms of demographics when compared to surrounding towns. In recent census information, about 48% of Asbury residents have identified as African American, 37% have identified as Caucasian, 30% have identified as Hispanic or Latinx, and 6% have identified as mixed race. As a direct comparison, Loch Arbour residents identified as about 91% Caucasian, Interlaken residents identified as over 97% Caucasian, Ocean Grove residents identified as almost 94% Caucasian, and Neptune residents identified as almost 67% Caucasian and 25% African American.

 

Asbury’s Politics

As Asbury is quite different from its direct neighbors in terms of population, it’s also a bit different in terms of its political leanings and voting history.

In a city of 15,722, with 9,218 registered voters, only 5,360 voted in the 2016 general election, according to New Jersey’s Division of Elections report. As only 58% of ballots were cast, that was the lowest turnout in Monmouth County, which has an average percentage of 72% ballots cast.

Neighboring towns better reflect the Monmouth County average with Neptune Township (which includes Ocean Grove just to the south of Asbury Park) at 71%, Allenhurst at 76%, and Interlaken at 81% ballots cast.

In the 2012 general election and with a lower population, Asbury Park had about 800 less registered voters than in 2016 but also had the same percentage of ballots cast: 58%. In 2012, Monmouth County overall was three percentage points lower at 69% of ballots cast than their 2016 average.

Going back a bit further, the 2008 general election saw higher numbers in terms of ballots cast, as, out of 8,429 registered voters, 5,372 cast a ballot, which means that the percentage was six points higher than 2016 at 64%.

So, overall, a lower percentage of people have come out to vote in Asbury Park in the 2016 general election than in 2008’s.

 

How Is Asbury Voting?

Regardless of the voting turnout, what’s apparent is that Asbury Park, as a whole, leans Democrat.

According to New Jersey Division of Elections results, Asbury Park voted heavily for Barack Obama in the 2008 general election to win over John McCain 4,693 votes to 522. Independent, Ralph Nader, Green Party candidate, Cynthia McKinney, and candidates from the Constitution Party and Vote Here Party also received votes.

In the 2012 General Election, Barack Obama won the city at 4,317 votes to Mitt Romney’s 480. Asbury Park residents did also vote for other candidates, with Gary Johnson receiving 25 votes, Jill Stein receiving 16, and candidates from the Constitution Party and NJ Justice Party receiving four each.

In the 2016 general election, Asbury Park again handedly voted Democrat and went to Clinton, who won the city 4,179 votes to Trump’s 746. Also again, Asbury Park residents voted for other candidates, with Gary Johnson receiving 75 votes and Jill Stein receiving 72.

Candidates from smaller parties, like the Constitution Party, the Socialism and Liberation Party, the Socialist Workers Party, the American Delta Party and the Workers World Party also received a small sampling of votes.

This breakdown shows something important: while Asbury may lean in one direction politically, the people have many different political opinions.

 

The People of Our Block

On our walks around the Asbury block we chose to reach out to, we spoke to residents, as well as some visitors, about their homes, Asbury Park, and state representation. Just on those quick walks, we met people who are registered to vote in New York but visit during the summers, people who have lived in Asbury Park for years, and people who are young and just starting their lives on their own in town. All of whom shared thoughts on how the town, and state, should be run.

Joe, a resident on Bond St., has lived in Asbury for seven years on and off and doesn’t subscribe to a political party. He follows his ideology of voting for the candidate that will “be the best for the town.” It doesn’t make sense to vote for a candidate just because they represent the party that you align with, Joe said, he wants his vote to go to someone who will make Asbury, and New Jersey, better.

Like other residents, Joe has concerns about what’s going on in Asbury and is ready to see them change. He wants better and more affordable parking options as well as help getting the streets clean and safe for his family and his neighbors.

Another one of his neighbors, Sheldon, who lives on 1st Ave. has been in Asbury Park for the past thirteen years but hasn’t voted in any elections. Sheldon says that he doesn’t think that there’s any point in him voting, something that seems to ring true for much of Asbury Park as evidenced by the town’s low turnout rate.

Troy, a business owner and a homeowner on 2nd Ave., feels frustrated by the lack of structured progress happening in his town. He’s lived in Asbury Park for five years now and regularly has issues with what’s happening around town. Living in several different places before settling in Asbury for now, Troy has a multi-layered perspective on how a town, and state, can be run, and wants to see Asbury embrace a more productive leadership strategy.

As different as they are, each one of these three people call Asbury Park their home and care about the town enough to gather together to talk with their neighbors about how they can make Asbury a better place and what the state can do to help.

They will meet together over a meal in the next few weeks to talk more about these topics as well as what they want out of New Jersey’s next governor and foster more civil and productive political conversations. We hope that you’ll consider doing the same with your neighbors.

Want to add your voice to the Voting Block and hold conversations with your neighbors? Sign up to host or join a Political Potluck in your neighborhood.

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