Asian-Americans have largely been ignored by U.S. politicians, but they could provide a valuable edge in the upcoming presidential election, says new polling data.
According to recently released census data, Asian-Americans are the fastest growing minority group in the U.S. population. The population has grown 46 percent since the 2000 census, and Asian-Americans now number more than 17 million nationwide. According to Lake Research, which conducted the poll, Asian-Americans represented two percent of the electorate in 2008, with 48 percent of eligible voters turning out.
The polling was conducted in several states, including Florida, Nevada and Virginia, what are likely to be key swing states in the November presidential election.
“Every vote counts, especially in a tight election. If Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders vote at the same level they did last time, it could mean increasing margins for the party they prefer - 47,000 more votes in Virginia than last election, 33,000 more in Florida and 9,000 more in Nevada,” said Christine Chen, acting executive director of APIAVote, which works to mobilize Asian-American and Pacific Islander voters.
“Political leaders must engage this rapidly growing voting bloc in the conversation. We’re working with dozens of community-based groups to get AAPIs involved in the process, but locally we’ve barely been contacted by either party,” she said.
The survey showed Asian-Americans largely tend to identify themselves as Democrats by more than a three-to-one margin. Fifty-nine percent of Asian-Americans favored U.S. President Barack Obama, while only 13 percent preferred presumed Republican nominee Mitt Romney. Twenty-seven percent said they were undecided. That Democrat-Republican split remained largely unchanged since the 2008 election.
Despite the tendency to favor Democratic candidates, only 23 percent of those surveyed said they’d been contacted by the Democratic Party in the past two years. Only 17 percent said they’d been contacted by the Republican Party.
Republican National Committee spokesperson Alexandra Franceschi says the party is ramping up its voter contact as it looks towards the general election.
"The RNC is committed to engaging as many voters as possible across America. We will be reaching out with our economic message, because all Americans are struggling to make ends meet under the Obama Administration,” she said.
The Democratic Party did not return calls, but does have a section on its web page dedicated to Asian-Americans.
Asian-American civic leaders say politicians will be mistaken to ignore their voting bloc.
“Since candidates and political parties don’t think—from a national perspective—that the size of our population is significant, they dismiss us,” said Mee Moua, the president and executive director of the Asian-American Justice Center, which works to advance the human and civil rights of Asian Americans. “But what the poll confirmed is that in local, state and congressional races—especially in states with high Asian American concentrations—we have the potential to make a tremendous difference and influence the outcome, so candidates who ignore us do so at their own peril.”