In 2005, Christian Collet, then a professor at UC Irvine, published a paper in the Journal of Politics in which he used sophisticated statistical analysis to find that Vietnamese-American voters in Orange County voted as a bloc when it came to Viet candidates, that Viet voters consistently prefered a Viet candidate to other ethnicities, and voted for that candidate.
In this year’s election for Westminster City Council this behavior expressed itself again. The numbers from the OC Registrar of Voters show, as detailed below, that every precinct in Westminster had the same relative degree of support for each of the three Vietnamese-American candidates.
The race was for two seats, one already held by Tyler Diep and another vacated by Tri Ta as he ran for mayor. Seven candidates were on the ballot, three were Vietnamese. In the end, two non-Vietnamese won, incumbent Diep lost, as did the two Viet challengers, Charlie Nguyen and Khai Dao.
Diep ended in third place with 8,787 votes, followed closely by Nguyen with 7,723 votes. Here’s a comparison of the number of votes received by Diep and Nguyen, down to each of precincts in Westminster. Diep is a former aide to Van Tran, while Nguyen is thought to be allied with Lan Quoc Nguyen, another close Tran associate.
Note that this is a graph of actual votes cast. What it says, on its face, is that in every single precinct in Westminster, Diep got a number (number!) of votes that’s practically identical to Nguyen.
That’s a very tight fit: Nowhere in any of the precincts was the vote gap between them more than 10%.
(For stat people: Chi-square comparison of Diep’s vote distribution, to Nguyen’s, yields Chi-square p=1, meaning an identical distribution at almost statistical certainty. Paired t test yields t=0, p=1.)
It is of course not sufficient conclusive proof of, but is strong evidence in support of the conclusion that voters in Westminster, if they decided to vote for Nguyen, would also vote for Diep, and vice-versa.
In stronger terms, this graph is consistent with the claim that Diep and Nguyen get their votes from basically the same voters. It is, in other words, consistent with the Viets vote for Viets hypothesis.
Now, some may say that this result can be explained by the two candidates’ close relation – they may both be drawing support from the same political machine.
But there was a third Vietnamese candidate, Khai Dao, who ended with 2,715 votes or 6.0%. Dao is a political newcomer who is not in anyway affiliated with the Tran organization. Because of the disparate vote levels, let’s look at the distribution of votes. That is, of all votes each candidate gets, how many percent he got in each precinct. (Adding all percents for each candidate across the precincts would result in 100%.)
Therefore, if it is true that Viets voted for Viets, we would expect a congruence of the distribution as between Diep and Dao.
And we do:
Again, the lines are overlapping at near statistical certainty. (For stat people: Chi-square p=1. Paired t=-0, p=1.)
Where do these votes come from? If we look at a different percentage, the percent of votes each candidate got from a given precinct, we see that nine of the precincts gave Diep 40% or more of their votes. These nine precincts are all in the heart of Little Saigon, starting at City Hall, going east on Westminster, turning right on Bushard and spreading out on Bolsa reaching the Asian Garden Mall (Phước Lộc Thọ).
This is, again, consistent with the hypothesis that there is bloc voting by Viets for Viets.
The interesting thing about this is that it makes many Viet candidates fungible.
So, suppose Diep decided not to run, for the same reason he withdrew from the Assembly race, because there were 2 other Viets running. We would expect most Diep-Nguyen voters to switch to Nguyen-Dao, and Diep-Dao voters as well. That would give both of them enough votes to beat Carey.
In other words, if Diep had not run, there would for sure be a Viet elected to the Westminster city council. In fact, if for some reason Diep-Dao voters didn’t switch to Nguyen-Dao but to Dao and some other candidate, the sixth-place Dao would win. Bloc voting can lead to some really interesting results.
In part 2, the Bolsavik will compare Diep’s performance with non-Viet candidates, showing again that Diep drew his votes mostly from Vietnamese voters.