The Virginia Asian American Vote 2004


Falls Church, VA—The Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund, in conjunction with the Asian Pacific American Legal Resource Center, released new findings from its national multilingual exit poll of almost 11,000 Asian American voters in the November 2004 Presidential Election, the largest nonpartisan survey of its kind in the nation.

AALDEF’s new publication, The Asian American Vote 2004: A Report on the Multilingual Exit Poll in the 2004 Presidential Election, provides a snapshot of the voter preferences of Asian Americans in 20 cities in 8 states: New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Michigan, Illinois, Pennsylvania, and Virginia.

AALDEF and APALRC released special analysis on the 281 Virginia respondents. Voters were surveyed in Fairfax (Falls Church, Annandale) and Arlington counties. Highlights of the findings are:

  • Profile of Respondents. The 4 largest Asian groups surveyed in Virginia were Southeast Asian (29%), South Asian (25%), Chinese (15%), and Korean (12%). 77% were foreign born. 16% had no formal U.S. education. More than a third (35%) were first-time voters.
  • Asian Americans are growing political constituencies in both political parties.

Overall, almost half (47%) of Virginia Asian Americans were registered Democrats, 25% were not enrolled in any political party, and 25% were registered Republicans. Asian Americans favored Senator John Kerry over President George W. Bush, 70% to 28%, with 2% voting for other candidates.

A majority (67%) of South Asian voters were registered Democrats, and almost all (95%) voted for Kerry. But just over half (53%) of Southeast Asian voters were registered Republicans, and close to two-thirds (63%) voted for Bush. * Economy/jobs was the most important issue influencing Asian Americans vote for President.

Overall, the most important issues for voters were Economy/Jobs (22%), followed by the War in Iraq (20%), and Terrorism/Security (17%). * The most important civil rights/immigrants rights issue to Virginia Asian Americans was Civil Liberties.

Regardless of ethnicity, all Asian ethnic groups identified Civil Liberties as the most important civil rights/immigrants rights issue facing the community. Civil Liberties (24%) was the top choice, followed by Legalization of Immigrants (16%), and Hate Crimes (15%). Respondents also selected other issues including—Affirmative Action, Deportation/ Detention, Immigration Backlogs, Language Barriers to Services, Racial Profiling, Voting/Political Representation, and Workers Rights—but each was selected by less than 11% of respondents.; * Asian Americans turned to ethnic media outlets for their main source of news.

More than a third (34%) of all respondents got their news about politics and community issues from the ethnic press, rather than from mainstream media outlets. 17% of voters got their news from ethnic media sources in Asian languages. * Language assistance and bilingual ballots expands access to the vote.

More than one out of five (22%) Virginia Asian Americans expressed that they were limited English proficient. 21% identified English as their native language. In the 2004 elections, one in five (21%) of all respondents needed some form of language assistance in order to exercise their right to vote, either in the form of interpreters or translated written materials.

In particular, Vietnamese and Korean Americans had much higher rates of limited English proficiency (about 41% for both). About a third (30%) needed some form of language assistance. In addition, Asian Americans faced a number of voting barriers. A few voters were directed to the wrong poll sites and complained of hostile, rude or poorly trained poll workers.

Community exit polls paint a different picture of the electorate. Different results are found when exit polls are taken in numerous Asian languages and pollsters resemble the populations they are polling. For example, only 11% of respondents in the poll conducted by the National Election Pool (NEP) were first-time voters, whereas over a third (38%) of all Asian Americans surveyed in AALDEF’s 8-state multilingual exit poll were first-time voters. The NEP reported that 54% of Asian Americans voted for Kerry, but AALDEF found that 74% of Asian Americans voted for Kerry. Multilingual exit polls reveal vital information about Asian American voting patterns that are regularly overlooked or very different from mainstream voter surveys.

AALDEF has conducted exit polls of Asian American voters in every major election since 1988. Over 5,000 Asian New Yorkers and 3,000 Asian voters in 4 states (NY, NJ, MA, MI) were surveyed in AALDEF’s 2000 and 2002 exit polls, respectively.

The 2004 multilingual exit poll was conducted in 23 Asian languages and dialects. AALDEF worked with several community groups to mobilize 1,200 attorneys, law students, and volunteers to conduct the multilingual exit poll and to monitor polling places for incidents of voter discrimination.

Co-Sponsors of the Asian American Exit Poll 2004 include the Asian American Bar Association of New York, Asian Pacific American Agenda Coalition, Asian Pacific American Legal Resource Center, Boston Asian Students Alliance, Chinatown Voter Education Alliance, Chinese Progressive Association, Harry H. Dow Memorial Legal Assistance Fund, Korean American Resource and Cultural Center, Korean American Voters Council of NY/NJ, Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights—Boston, National Asian American Student Convention, National Korean American Service and Education Consortium, Providence Youth and Student Movement, Organization of Chinese Americans—Detroit Chapter, South Asian American Voting Youth, South Asian American Leaders for Tomorrow, Vietnamese American Initiative for Development, and Young Korean American Service and Education Center.

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