Polls show Asian Americans reflect a range of political leanings

The Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund published a report Jan. 17, detailing the results of a multilingual exit poll of 9,096 Asian Americans in 14 states during last year’s presidential elections. AALDEF said in a statement that Asian Americans vary in political beliefs on policies across ethnic lines and by geographic locations.

The poll results state that 77 percent of those surveyed voted for President Barack Obama in the presidential election, and 21 percent voted for Mitt Romney, but the numbers differed considerably among various Asian ethnicities. The Bangladeshi American voters overwhelmingly supported Obama, with 96 percent of those surveyed saying they voted for the president. Forty-four percent of Vietnamese Americans voted for the Democrat incumbent. Variations also existed among other political issues and geography.

“Asian Americans are a diverse community with varying social, political, and economic backgrounds,” Margaret Fung, executive director of AALDEF, said in a statement. “The AALDEF Exit Poll provides much needed data on Asian American voting trends, especially as our community’s political influence continues to grow.”

The New York-based AALDEF polled voters on Election Day in New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Maryland, Michigan, Illinois, Georgia, Louisiana, Florida, Texas, Nevada, California and Washington, D.C. Regionally, Asian Americans in the Northeast were more likely to have voted for Obama (89 percent in Pennsylvania and 86 percent in New York) than those in south (57 percent in Texas and 16 percent in Louisiana), for example.

Among the polled ethnic groups, 31 percent were Chinese, 13 percent were Asian Indian, 12 percent were Bangladeshi, 12 percent were Vietnamese, 11 percent were Korean, nine percent Filipino, three percent Pakistani, two percent Arab, one percent Indo-Caribbean and one percent Cambodian.

The AALDEF said the multilingual exit polls reveal vital information about Asian American voting patterns that is often overlooked in mainstream voter surveys. The polls have been conducted in every major election since 1988, according to the organization. In the 2008 presidential election, AALDEF surveyed 16,665 Asian American voters in 11 states. More than 800 attorneys, law students, and volunteers conducted the poll this year.

Poll results at a glance:

• Younger voters were more likely to vote for Obama.

• Nearly two-thirds of those surveyed supported immigration reform, including a path to citizenship for undocumented people.

• Of those who voted for Romney, 47 percent of Asian Americans voiced support for immigration reform, compared to 30 percent who oppose it.

• More than one-third (37 percent) of voters polled were limited English proficient (LEP), while only 18 percent said English was their native language.

• Korean Americans reported the highest concentration of LEP voters, with 67 percent identifying as LEP, followed by Vietnamese Americans (59 percent), Chinese Americans (55 percent) and Bangladeshi Americans (45 percent).

• 249 were required to prove their U.S. citizenship.

• 307 said that their names were missing or had errors in the list of voters at poll sites.

• 215 had to vote by provisional ballot.

• 165 voters said that poll workers did not know what to do.

• 136 voters said that poll workers were rude or hostile.

• 183 voters said that no interpreters or translations were available when they needed their help.

• 105 were directed to the wrong poll site or voting machine or table within a site.

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