The Crucial Asian American Vote

Asian Americans likely to vote in November strongly prefer Barack Obama over Mitt Romney, but a large portion of voters – nearly one-third – remain undecided and could play a crucial role in battleground states, according to two reports released today by the National Asian American Survey.

Drawn from a nationally representative sample of more than 3,300 interviews, the reports offer the most comprehensive portrait of Asian American political views. Among the fastest growing groups in America, Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders exceeded the 5 percent threshold in roughly one in four congressional districts in 2010, and a record number of Asian Americans are running for Congress this year.

“Asian American voters are getting a considerable amount of attention from the presidential campaigns this year, particularly in the battleground states of Nevada, North Carolina and Virginia,” said Karthick Ramakrishnan, associate professor of political science at the University of California, Riverside and director of the National Asian American Survey (NAAS).  “When compared to the general electorate, and even the Latino electorate, the Asian American vote is very much up for grabs at this late stage in the presidential campaign.”

Indeed, the survey data show that 32 percent of likely Asian American voters remain undecided after the presidential nominating conventions, much higher than the estimated 7 percent rate among the general population. Moreover, one in six Asian Americans lives in a battleground state during the 2012 presidential election.

“Uncertainty is also a defining characteristic of party identification,” noted Taeku Lee, professor and chair of political science and professor of law at the University of California, Berkeley.  “Given the high proportion of immigrants among the Asian American electorate, we find a much higher proportion of non-partisans than the national average.”  Lee is a principal investigator of the survey and co-author of a book (with Zoltan Hajnal), “Why Americans Don’t Join The Party.”

The data also show that:

  • Among likely voters, 43 percent of Asian Americans support Barack Obama, while 24 percent prefer Romney. There are considerable differences by ethnic group: Indian Americans show the strongest support for Obama (68 percent), and Samoans and Filipinos show strongest support for Romney (39 percent and 38 percent, respectively).
  • Democrats have a 34 percent to 18 percent advantage among Asian Americans, but a majority of Asian Americans (51 percent) are Independent or do not identify with the U.S. party system. This figure is higher than the average for the national population (40 percent).
  • Hmong, Indian and Korean Americans most strongly identify with the Democratic Party. In a significant shift, Filipino Americans now have the strongest identification with the Republican Party, a designation that has previously consistently belonged to Vietnamese Americans.
  • The issues most important to Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders are similar to those of the rest of the country: the economy and jobs, followed by health care and education.
  • Asian Americans largely support both health care reform and affirmative action. On health care reform, support remains high regardless of whether the law is referred to as the Affordable Care Act or “Obamacare.”

The survey was conducted by Ramakrishnan and Lee, who together have written seven books and dozens of articles on racial/ethnic politics, and have conducted 17 surveys, eight of which have included multiple-language support for Asian Americans.

Project partners on the report include National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum (NAPAWF) and Asian American Justice Center (AAJC).  “Most national polls do not feature the voices of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders,” said Miriam Yeung, executive director of NAPAWF.  “A survey like this, with the number of respondents and questions relevant to our community are vitally important.”

“Public officials need to take note of our growing communities, nationally and in various states,” Mee Moua, president and executive director of AAJC, also noted. “The need to engage the AAPI population, on issues they are concerned about and in a culturally competent manner, is more important than ever.”

The full reports, including information about the survey methodology, can be found at www.naasurvey.com/.

The NAAS is a scientific and nonpartisan effort to poll the opinions of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.

The material in this press release comes from the originating research organization. Content may be edited for style and length. Want more? Sign up for our daily email.