- While both major candidates in the upcoming US
presidential election continue to ignore the growing
importance of the Asian-American vote, a new poll
suggests that a plurality of the nearly 3 million
members of that community intends to vote for John Kerry
in November, not George W Bush.
But one of the
most surprising findings in the poll was the large
percentage of the Asian-American bloc who are still
undecided less than two months away from the election:
Given the large numbers of undecideds among
Asian-Americans and their heavy reliance on
foreign-language media, the failure of both presidential
candidates to give them more attention, including
interviews and advertising, is especially surprising,
said Sandy Close, executive director of the survey's
sponsor, New California Media (NCM).
3 million registered Asian/Pacific Islander voters, who
remain vastly more undecided than the national average,
may be more pivotal than in years past in what is
projected to be a close election," said Close. "With
this in mind, the Asian voter cannot be ignored."
Outside of California, Hawaii, Oregon,
Washington state and New York City, the Asian-American
vote has generally been considered proportionately too
small for national politicians to take extra care and
expense to cultivate. But the Asian-American population
is growing fast. The number of registered Asian-American
voters has increased by almost 50% in just four years.
Not only that, but ethnic Asians tend to belong
more to higher-income and better-educated groups than
Americans on average.
The survey was carried out
in August by several national polling firms.
Interviewees could respond in English or their choice of
eight Asian languages. The poll found that Kerry's
strongest support came from Chinese- and
Indian-Americans, while Vietnamese- and
Filipino-American voters are the most supportive of
incumbent President Bush and of his Republican Party as
Overall, Kerry leads Bush among
Asian-Americans by 43% versus 36%, a significant gap in
favor of the Democrats, but a good deal smaller than the
14% margin of the 2000 presidential race. In that
election, former vice president Al Gore won 55% of the
Asian-American vote to Bush's 41% and Ralph Nader's 3%.
While Asian-American voters are
disproportionately concentrated in California, where
Kerry currently leads by a large margin, they could play
decisive roles in a number of so-called "battleground
states" where the candidates are so close that the race
could still go either way.
In Florida, for
example, there are an estimated 86,000 Asian-American
voters - many, many times more than the mere 500 voters
who gave Bush victory there four years ago. There are
65,000 voters from that community in the critical swing
states of Michigan; 50,000 in Oregon; 47,000 in
Pennsylvania; 34,000 in Arizona; nearly 30,000 in both
Minnesota and Nevada; and about 20,000 in Wisconsin,
Missouri, Ohio and Tennessee.
Arab-Americans, Asian-American voters are perhaps the
most bipartisan of all US citizens of color. Latino
Americans, with the exception of Cuban-American voters,
have traditionally identified more closely with
Democrats, and Kerry currently holds an almost 2-1
advantage over Bush among that bloc.
African-American voters are identified even more
closely with the Democratic Party. Kerry is expected to
receive between 80% and 90% of the black vote in
Chinese-Americans represent the
largest block among ethnic-Asian voters, with about 26%
of the Asian-American vote. They are followed by
Indian-Americans (20%), Filipinos (19%), Vietnamese and
Koreans (11% each), Japanese (8%), Pacific Islanders
(3%) and Hmong (2%), who hail from Laos. (NCM did not
make clear how it defined "Indian-American", ie, whether
this block had ties only with India proper or, more
likely, with the South Asian subcontinent and its Indic
perifery as a whole, including Pakistan, Bangladesh and
To ensure broad participation in the
poll, interviews of the 1,004 respondents were conducted
in English or in one of eight Asian languages, including
Mandarin, Cantonese, Japanese, Tagalog, Hmong, Hindi,
Vietnamese and Korean. Of the total, 59% of respondents
chose to have the interview in a language other than
The sample was broadly representative
of the Asian voting-age population as a whole - some 28%
of respondents had an annual income of more than
US$75,000, and 57% had pursued their education through
four years in college/university or beyond (compared
with 33% for the general US population). As a group,
Asian-Americans are among the most highly educated and
well compensated of all ethnic groups in the US.
Kerry was most favored over Bush by Hmong
respondents (65-15%), followed by Chinese-Americans
(58-23%), Indian-Americans (53-14%) and
Japanese-Americans (42-38%). Bush, on the other hand,
was most favored over Kerry by Vietnamese (71-11%),
Filipinos (56-30%), Koreans (41-38%) and Pacific
By far the largest group of
undecideds were "Asian Indians" (30%).
found to be much more popular overall among younger
Asian-American voters (18-38 years old) who broke almost
2-1 for Kerry (51-27%). Kerry was also more heavily
favored by college/university graduates (46-34%), as
opposed to those with high-school educations or less
Forty percent of all respondents said
their impression of Bush overall was negative, compared
with only 26% whose impression of Kerry was negative.
The Democratic Party as a whole was also seen
more positively by Asian-Americans (63%) compared with
the Republican Party (48%).
Despite the large
number of undecided voters within the Asian-American
community and the relative absence of major Asia-related
issues in the campaign to date, almost two-thirds
believe the November election is likely to be the most
important election of their lifetime.
Forty-seven percent of respondents identified
"jobs and the economy" as the most important issue for
the next president to deal with, while 22% cited the
Iraq war and terrorism, followed by lesser figures for
education and health care.
On specific issues,
35% said outsourcing jobs to Asia was a "good policy",
compared with 46% who said it was "bad". As for Iraq, a
majority of 51% said it was the wrong policy to go to
war there, while 31% said it was the right policy.
On social issues, Asians were particularly
conservative. More than two-thirds said they opposed
allowing same-sex or homosexual couples to marry
legally, although the margin was much closer among
On immigration, however,
Asian-Americans were more liberal, with 51% supporting
legalizing undocumented immigrants who live, work and
pay taxes in the US. Thirty-five percent opposed the
As to their news sources, two-thirds of
Asian-Americans said they get most of their information
about politics from US mainstream media, while 21%
identified foreign-language media, including community
newspapers, as their main source of political news,
including campaign coverage.