Multilingual Poll Finds Californians United in Financial Misery

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 California residents are united across racial and ethnic lines in viewing the state’s economic landscape as bleak and their own financial situation as worse than the previous year, according to a new multilingual voter survey by The Field Poll.

Asked about the state’s economy, 97 percent of whites, 91 percent of Latinos, 92 percent of Chinese Americans, 94 percent of Vietnamese Americans, and 95 percent of African Americans said it was in “bad times.” Among Korean Americans, 90 percent chose “bad times,” while 9 percent said the economy was mixed. This is the third consecutive year that the poll found that a majority of Californians considers the state’s economy as worse than the previous year.

High on the list of residents’ concerns is the state’s 12.5 percent official unemployment rate. An overwhelming majority of all groups consider unemployment as “very serious,” but there were significant differences among them. Among Asians, 63 percent of Chinese Americans, 70 percent of Vietnamese Americans and 69 percent of Korean Americans described unemployment as “very serious.”

But 84 percent of Latinos and 87 percent of African Americans rated unemployment as “very serious,” reflecting different experiences. For Alma Batchie, 44, an African American resident in Alameda County, the survey touched on her own financial crisis, which began when she was laid off two years ago from her job as a drug counselor at a nonprofit when it lost funding. Her job search has been futile because “there is nothing out there,” she said. “There is no extra money at all. We’re barely paying the bills. But I’m grateful for what I have. I have a roof over my head.”

Batchie volunteers at a women’s transitional housing program in Oakland in order to keep busy, and she has set a goal of finding a job by February. She has a BA and is certificated in her field, but she has few hopes for the coming year. “I think it’s going to get worse before it gets better. Maybe in two years,” she said.

Overall 59 percent of respondents said they’re worse off financially than they were last year. Compared to all groups, 72 percent of Vietnamese Americans said they are doing worse. Among Chinese Americans, Korean Americans and African Americans, 56 percent said they are doing worse, while 62 percent of Latinos said they’re worse off.

Sheri Tran, 28, a Los Angeles resident, said she has been struggling to juggle work and education as a part time student at Cal State Long Beach in health science. Tran, who is Vietnamese American, doesn’t see a brighter future any time soon. “The economy is going down at same time prices going up,” Tran said. “The manufacturers say they have to compensate for lower sales by raising prices, and taxes keep going up. I doubt that things will get better.”

Californians are not optimistic about improvements in their own financial situation over 2010, with just 27 percent saying they believe things will get better and 48 percent believing things will stay the same. Latinos, African Americans and Vietnamese Americans were slightly more optimistic about their own prospects in the coming year compared to other groups, with 36 percent, 38 percent and 34 percent respectively saying things would be better. Chinese Americans and Korean Americans had a grimmer view, with 26 percent and 24 percent respectively saying their finances would get better.

For Mary Wong, 82, things couldn’t get much worse. The LA resident had multiple health problems in the last year that rendered her blind and disabled and unable to get around on her own. Last year, due to funding cuts, she lost the Meals on Wheels service she’d depended on. “They used to deliver meals to me every day, and when it was cut to once a week, I put the meals in the freezer. It included juice and milk and Ensure. Now we’re not getting it,” Wong said. “I’m hoping things will get better next year, but some of the things I’ve seen go down the tubes are terrible.”

Wong, who was a commissioner in the city’s agency for disabled services, has little patience for elected officials who affect her fate. “Some of the people in politics, they act like they’re doing you a favor,” she said. “You don’t ask to be blind. Your social security money is not getting better, and when you get it doesn’t amount to anything.”

The Field Poll survey interviewed 1,232 registered voters by telephone from January 4-17. It was conducted in English and five languages-Vietnamese, Spanish, Korean, Mandarin and Cantonese--for the first time in the organization’s nearly five-decade history. The survey was done in partnership with New America Media, which provided supplemental funding through grants from the James Irvine Foundation, the PG&E Foundation, the Blue Shield of California Foundation and the San Francisco Foundation.

Chinese translation: 多語言民意調查發現加州選民在經濟困境中意見一致

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