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Asian-Americans lean toward Kerry
By Jim Lobe

WASHINGTON - 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: 20%.

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).

"The nearly 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 a whole.

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.

Along with 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 November.

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 Sri Lanka.)

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 English.

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 Islanders (40-37%).

By far the largest group of undecideds were "Asian Indians" (30%).

Kerry was 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 (35-43%).

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 younger respondents.

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 idea.

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.

(Inter Press Service)

Sep 16, 2004

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World votes for Kerry in a landslide
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How Bush, Kerry are one and the same
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Close, but Bush will win
(Aug 31, '04)

The politics of outsourcing
(Aug 20, '04)

The brown vote
(Jun 23, '04) 


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