Findings Illuminate South Asian American Voting Patterns, Party Enrollment, Voter Priorities for 2008 Elections, and Voting Barriers
Today, May 1 in New York, the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF) released detailed findings from its multilingual exit poll of more than 1,200 South Asian American voters during the November 2006 midterm elections. AALDEF, a 33-year-old civil rights organization, polled more than 4,700 Asian American voters in 23 cities and in nine states on Election Day nationwide.
AALDEF surveyed a total of 1,266 South Asian American voters in eight states New York, New Jersey, Michigan, Virginia, Maryland, Illinois, Massachusetts, and Pennsylvania and Washington, D.C.
AALDEF Voting Rights Public Education Coordinator Brian Redondo and Staff Attorney Glenn Magpantay presented findings from the 2006 exit poll with comparative information in the following areas:
- Voter priorities for the 2008 Elections
- Party enrollment
- Vote in U.S. Senate races
- First-time voting by ethnicity
- Opinions about immigration reform
- Citizenship tenure (duration)
- English proficiency levels
- Voting barriers and problems
Speakers included Deepa Iyer, Executive Director, South Asian American Leaders of Tomorrow, Amardeep Singh, Executive Director, Sikh Coalition, and Annetta Seecharran, Executive Director, South Asian Youth Action!
AALDEF’s multilingual exit polls reveal vital information about Asian American voting patterns that is often overlooked in mainstream voter surveys. AALDEF has conducted exit polls of Asian American voters in every major election since 1988. Nearly 11,000 Asian American voters in eight states and 3,000 in four states were surveyed in the 2004 and 2002 exit polls, respectively. More than 30 community groups and organizations joined AALDEF to mobilize more than 600 attorneys, law students, and volunteers to conduct the exit poll and to safeguard the voting rights of Asian Americans.
Co-sponsors of the May 1 presentation include Legal Access Network for South Asians, Sikh Coalition, South Asian American Leaders of Tomorrow, and South Asian Youth Action!
The South Asian American Vote in the 2006 Midterm Elections
On Election Day, November 7, 2006, the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF), with the help of several co-sponsoring organizations and more than 600 attorneys, law students, and volunteers, conducted a nonpartisan, multilingual exit poll of over 4,700 Asian American voters. The questionnaire was available in English and nine Asian languages. Voters were surveyed in 23 cities across nine statesNew York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, Illinois, Washingtonas well as Washington, D.C.
AALDEF surveyed a total of 1,266 South Asian American voters in eight states—New York, New Jersey, Michigan, Virginia, Maryland, Illinois, Massachusetts, and Pennsylvania—and Washington, D.C. Highlights of the findings include:
Profile of respondents.
The largest ethnic groups surveyed among South Asian American voters were: Asian Indian (57%), Bangladeshi (19%), and Pakistani (18%). Eighty-eight percent (88%) were foreign-born citizens. One out of five (22%) respondents had no formal U.S. education, and 17% were first-time voters. Twenty-three percent (23%) of respondents expressed that they were limited English proficient, and 12% identified English as their native language.
South Asian Americans were mostly Democratic voters.
Eighty-five percent (85%) of South Asian Americans voted for the Democratic candidates in the Senate (MD, NJ, PA, VA) gubernatorial (IL, MA) and attorney general (NY) races in their respective states. Nine percent (9%) voted for the Republican candidate, and 5% voted for other candidates.
Most South Asian Americans were registered Democrats.
Nearly three out of four (73%) of South Asian respondents were registered Democrats, while 6% were registered Republicans, and 18% were not enrolled in any political party. Four out of five (80%) Bangladeshi respondents were registered Democrats, while 3% were registered Republicans, and 16% were not enrolled in any political party.
Economy/Jobs was the most important issue South Asian Americans identified for 2008 Presidential candidates to address.
The three most important issues for 2008 presidential candidates to address were: Economy/Jobs (28%), the War in Iraq (19%), and Health Care (16%).
South Asian Americans supported legalization of undocumented immigrants and reducing immigration backlogs, while they opposed criminalizing the undocumented.
Of those who gave an opinion, 76% of South Asian American respondents said they favored creating a way for undocumented immigrants to legalize their status. Additionally, 90% of respondents said they favored reducing the amount of time the government takes to process paperwork for immigrants waiting to enter the country. Sixty-six percent (66%) of respondents also said they opposed making being undocumented a crime.
Many South Asian Americans have been affected by anti-immigrant sentiment.
Sixteen percent (16%) of respondents said they had been affected by anti-immigrant sentiment in at least one of the following locations: at work, at school, or in a public location. Of those, nearly half (46%) said they had been affected by anti-immigrant sentiment in public locations.
Language assistance and translated ballots are needed to preserve access to the vote.
More than one fifth (23%) of South Asian American voters reported that they were limited English proficient. Furthermore, over half (56%) of Bangladeshi respondents in Hamtramck, Michigan, 46% of Pakistani and 45% of Bangladeshi in Brooklyn, New York, and 37% of Punjabi speakers in Queens, New York expressed difficulty reading English. Over one third (35%) of South Asian American voters used an interpreter to vote.
South Asian American voters encountered unlawful ID requirements.
The Help America Vote Act of 2002 requires that only certain first-time voters provide identification to vote. Yet 79% of South Asian American voters asked to show identification in order to vote were not required to do so under this federal law.
AALDEF Exit Polls
AALDEF has conducted exit polls of Asian American voters in every major election since 1988. Nearly 11,000 Asian American voters in eight states (NY, NJ, MA, MI, IL, PA, RI, VA) were surveyed in AALDEFs 2004 exit poll. Over 3,000 Asian American voters in four states (NY, NJ, MA, MI) were surveyed in 2002, and over 5,000 Asian New Yorkers were surveyed in 2000.
National Co-Sponsors of the Asian American Exit Poll 2006:
Asian Pacific Islander American Vote
Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law
National Asian Pacific American Bar Association
National Korean American Service & Education Consortium
Organization of Chinese Americans
People For the American Way Foundation
South Asian American Leaders of Tomorrow
Shearman & Sterling LLP
Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP
Local Co-Sponsors of the Asian American Exit Poll 2006:
Asian American Bar Association of New York
Asian American Bar Association of the Delaware Valley
Asian American Lawyers Association of Massachusetts
Asian Bar Association of Washington
Asian Pacific American Bar Association of the Greater Washington, DC Area
Asian Pacific American Lawyers Association of New Jersey
Asian Pacific American Legal Resource Center DC
Cambodian Association of Greater Philadelphia
Chinatown Voter Education Alliance NY
Coalition of Asian Pacific Americans of Virginia
Conference on Asian Pacific American Leadership DC
Filipino American Human Services, Inc. NY
Greater Boston Legal Services, Asian Outreach Unit
Korean American League for Civic Action NY
Korean American Resource & Cultural Center IL
Korean American Voters Council of NY & NJ
ONE Lowell MA
Pennsylvania Immigration and Citizenship Coalition
Philadelphia Chinatown Development Corporation
YKASECEmpowering the Korean American Community NY
The Sikh Coalition NY
South Asian Youth Action! NY
Vietnamese American Initiative for Development MA
Asian Pacific American Law Students Association chapters across the country.
For More Information, Contact:
Glenn D. Magpantay, Staff Attorney, firstname.lastname@example.org
Brian Redondo, Voting Rights Public Education Coordinator, email@example.com
Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF)
99 Hudson Street, 12th floor
New York, NY 10013