New Poll Finds Major Political Parties Ignore Asian Americans, Huge Gaps and Opportunities for Engagement Remain Untapped

Release Date: 
May 4, 2012


Leonie Campbell-Williams, 202-492-4591

Toby Chaudhuri, 978-884-8626

Close Elections in Important States like Florida, Nevada and Virginia Could Turn to Candidates who Best Engage Nation's Fastest Growing Racial Group

WASHINGTON – Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) voters are the nation's fastest growing racial group and are expected to vote in record numbers this fall. However, a major new poll conducted by Lake Research Partners finds that Asian Americans are still largely untapped by candidates for office and their political parties. The first-ever poll of Asian American voter attitudes shows that close elections in states with significant numbers of Asian American voters like California, Florida, Illinois, Nevada and Virginia could go to the candidates who best engage Asian Americans, a demographic with increasing political clout.


The poll marks the first time voting trends among Asian Americans – how they will vote this year and their views on a range of issues – have been examined. The effort surveyed more than 1,100 Asian American and Pacific Islander voters across the country last month and was released today by the Asian American Justice Center and the Asian American Institute, members of the Asian American Center for Advancing Justice, and APIAVote to bring attention to this crucial, but often overlooked, voting bloc at the start of Asian Pacific American Heritage Month. The poll results suggest that Asian American voters should not be ignored by any candidates, political parties, and organizations working to achieve a democratic process that ensures equal access to the political process for all voters.


An overwhelming majority of Asian Americans surveyed – nearly five out of six – said they will vote this November and half of them are more enthusiastic than ever to vote, a trend that has continued from the last few presidential elections.


"Taking these voters for granted in the short-run will have a big impact in the long-run because they're on a fast rise and they're very loyal," said Mee Moua, president and executive director of the Asian American Justice Center and a former state legislator. "They're looking for leaders who will stand up for them and address their issues."


Most AAPIs polled said they voted last time because they believed the country needed a change in direction and it was their civic duty or they liked a particular candidate, but according to the poll a third are undecided about who they'll vote for this year. A generic ballot at the congressional level also shows a lot of room for persuasion.


Moua also pointed to language assistance as an avenue to break barriers and increase participation this year. Three quarters of the AAPI voters surveyed said they speak another language at home and more than a fifth of them said they'd be more likely to vote if they had in-language assistance. AAPI voters tend to speak another language at home and most were born outside the country, immigrating to America as adults, according to the poll. Two-thirds of those who were born in the U.S. have parents born outside the country.


The poll found that anti-Asian political attacks could spell trouble for candidates with these voters. Asian Americans surveyed said they would turn strongly against a candidate who expresses anti-Asian views, even if they agree on other issues. The number was more split if a candidate expressed only an anti-immigrant view that isn't clearly anti-Asian.


"Every vote counts, especially in a tight election. If AAPIs vote at the same level as they did in 2008, it could mean increasing margins for the party they prefer -- 47,000 more votes in Virginia, 33,000 more in Florida and 9,000 more in Nevada," said Chen, acting executive director at APIAVote. "Political leaders must engage this rapidly growing voting bloc in the conversation. We're working with dozens of community-based groups to get AAPIs more civically engaged, but locally we've barely been contacted by either party."


Most importantly, if candidates address the community's issues, there's a lasting benefit because AAPI voters are younger than the general population and have roots spread across the country. In asking about stances on values and fairness, the poll found AAPI voters are looking for candidates who will stand up for the middle class and treat all Americans fairly, and that the most important issues to them are the economy, health care, education and immigration.


"Candidates for office and political parties ignore Asian American voters at their own peril," said pollster Celinda Lake. "Many Asian Americans don't really know the differences between the two leading political parties, because they haven't been engaged by either Democrats or Republicans. There's a real opportunity there to define the debate."


AAPIs identified overwhelmingly as Democrat in the poll – more than three times more than Republican and 31 percent identified as Independent. Yes, less than a third were contacted by the Democratic Party in the last two years, while 37 percent of Republicans said they heard a great deal from their party over the same period. Similarly, Independents barely heard from either party even though they are usually prime targets for political parties and candidates.


The poll's most dramatic findings were around AAPIs' views about the presumptive GOP presidential nominee. Nearly three in 10 said they have no opinion of Mitt Romney, leaving a lot of room to define him in this group. Although Asian Americans overwhelmingly like President Obama, with nearly three-quarters viewing him favorably, they feel much less so when it comes to his job performance. Results such as these suggest how important it is for all candidates to engage Asian American voters.


On the issues, Asian Americans aren't happy with the economic situation, but believe the country is moving in the right direction, views similar to the rest of the country.


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**NOTE: Updated details about the poll are available at Celinda Lake will join Mee Moua and Christine Chen to brief opinion leaders on the results on Monday at 4:30 p.m. ET at SEIU's Washington headquarters on Massachusetts Ave. Media representatives interested in attending or obtaining livestream details should contact Toby Chaudhuri at