New York — Asian American voters favored President-Elect Barack Obama by a 3-1 margin and supported other Democratic candidates in the November 2008 elections, according to an exit poll released today by the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF). The 11-state multilingual exit poll of 16,665 Asian American voters, conducted by AALDEF in collaboration with 60 national and local community groups, is the largest nonpartisan poll of its kind in the nation.
AALDEF Executive Director Margaret Fungsaid: “Asian Americans, especially first-time voters, demonstrated strong support for the historic 2008 election of our nation’s first African American president. The AALDEF exit poll reflects the ongoing importance of the Voting Rights Act to promote Asian American voter participation and to increase minority representation at the highest levels of government.”
The 2008 exit poll provides a unique snapshot of the voter preferences of Asian Americans in 39 cities in 11 states with large Asian American populations: New York, New Jersey, Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, Michigan, Illinois, Nevada, Louisiana, Texas, and Washington, DC. AALDEF has conducted exit polls of Asian American voters in every major election since 1988. In the 2004 Presidential elections, AALDEF polled 10,789 Asian American voters in 8 states.
The six largest Asian ethnic groups polled in 2008 were Chinese (32%), Asian Indian (16%), Korean (14%), Bangladeshi (8%), Vietnamese (7%) and Filipino (5%). Four out of five (79%) of those polled were foreign born. Over one-third (35%) described themselves as limited English proficient, and 21% had no formal U.S. education. Nearly one-third (31%) were first-time voters.
The AALDEF exit poll collected information about the party enrollment, English proficiency and issue preferences of first-time voters, foreign-born voters, women voters, and young voters. A detailed chart can be downloaded here. Selected highlights appear below:
• Asian American voters favored Barack Obama by a wide margin and are registered increasingly as Democrats.
By more than a 3 to 1 margin, Asian Americans favored Barack Obama over John McCain, 76% to 22%, with 2% voting for other candidates. A clear majority (58%) of Asian Americans were registered Democrats, 26% were not enrolled in any political party, and 14% of Asian Americans were registered Republicans.
• First-time voters favored Barack Obama by greater margins.
Among first-time Asian American voters, 82% voted for Barack Obama, 17% voted for John McCain, and 1% voted for other candidates.
• Asian Americans shared common political interests across ethnic lines, with the Economy/Jobs cited as the most important issue in their vote for President.
Regardless of ethnicity, almost all Asian ethnic groups voted as a bloc for the same candidates and identified common reasons for their vote. Economy/Jobs was the top choice for each ethnic group when voters were asked to select the most important issue from the following choices: Civil Rights/Immigrant Rights, Crime in Neighborhoods, Economy/Jobs, Education, Foreign Policy/War in Iraq, Health Care, Terrorism/Security, and Other Factors.
Economy/Jobs was the dominant issue for Asian American voters (30%), followed by Health Care (19%), Foreign Policy/War in Iraq (15%), Education (13%) and Civil Rights/Immigration Rights (11%).
• Language assistance and bilingual ballots are needed to preserve access to the vote.
Although one in five (20%) identified English as their native language, 35% of Asian Americans polled said that they were limited English proficient. A number of poll sites were mandated to provide bilingual ballots and interpreters under the federal Voting Rights Act; other jurisdictions voluntarily provided language assistance. In the 2008 elections, 18% of all respondents preferred to use some form of language assistance to vote.
AALDEF Staff Attorney Glenn Magpantay said: “AALDEF’s poll monitors found that many Asian Americans had to overcome numerous hurdles to exercise their right to vote. Many Asian American voters found their names missing from voter lists, some poll workers were rude and hostile toward new citizen voters, and limited English proficient voters had difficulty accessing interpreters and translated voting materials.”
Based on findings from the 2008 exit poll and AALDEF’s election monitoring efforts over the past decade, AALDEF will be advocating for vigorous enforcement of the Voting Rights Act, including expanded provisions for language assistance under section 203; more voluntary assistance in jurisdictions with growing Asian American populations that are limited English proficient; and the removal of barriers that deter new citizen voters from exercising their right to vote.
The 2008 multilingual exit poll was conducted at 113 poll sites in 12 Asian languages and dialects: Chinese, Korean, Vietnamese, Japanese, Tagalog, Khmer, Arabic, Bengali, Hindi, Punjabi, Urdu, and Gujarati. AALDEF worked with 60 co-sponsoring organizations to mobilize 1,500 attorneys, law students and community volunteers to conduct the multilingual exit poll and to monitor polling places for incidents of voter discrimination.
**National Co-Sponsors:**Asian Pacific Islander American Vote, Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance, Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights, National Asian Pacific American Bar Association, National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum, National Korean American Service and Education Consortium, North American South Asian Bar Association, Organization of Chinese Americans, South Asian Americans Leading Together. Legal Co-Sponsors:AU Washington College of Law, Human Rights Clinic-DC, Asian American Bar Association of Greater Chicago-IL, Asian American Bar Association of Houston-TX, Asian American Bar Association of New York, Asian American Lawyers Association of MA, Asian Pacific American Bar Association of Greater DC, Asian Pacific American Bar Association of PA, Asian Pacific American Lawyers Association of NJ, Asian Pacific American Legal Resource Center – DC Greater Boston Legal Services: Asian Outreach Unit Indian American Bar Association of IL, Korean American Lawyers Association of Greater NY, Michigan Asian Pacific American Bar Association, Muslim Bar Association of New York, South Asian Bar Association of DC, South Asian Bar Association of New Jersey, South Asian Bar Association of New York, South Asian Bar Association of Michigan, U. Penn. School of Law, Public Interest Office Temple U. School of Law, Public Interest Office-PA.
Local Co-Sponsors: ACCESS-MI, Asian American LEAD-DC, Asian American Society of Central Virginia, Asian Community Development Corporation of Boston-MA ,Asian Pacific American Agenda Coalition-MA, Cambodian Association of Greater Philadelphia-PA, Conference for Asian Pacific American Leadership-DC, Chinatown Voter Education Alliance-NY, Chinese American Voters Association-NY, Chinese Progressive Association-MA, Coalition of Asian Pacific Americans of Virginia, Committee of 70-PA, Filipino American Human Services Inc.-NY, Hunter College/CUNY, Asian American Studies Program, Korean American Coalition-DC, Korean American Voters’ Council of NY/NJ, Korean American Resource & Cultural Center-IL, Korean Community Service Center of Greater Washington, DC, Maryland Vietnamese Mutual Association-MD, Mass VOTE-MA, One Lowell-MA, Philadelphia Chinatown Development Corporation-PA, Providence Youth and Student Movement-RI, Sikh Coalition-NY, South Asian Youth Action!-NY, U. Maryland Asian American Studies Program, Viet-Vote-MA, Vietnamese American Initiative for Development-MA, Vietnamese American Mutual Association-MD, Vietnamese American Young Leaders Association of New Orleans, LA, YKASEC: Empowering Korean American Communities-NY.
For more information:
212.966.5932 ext. 201
Glenn D. Magpantay
212.966.5932 ext. 206