New York–The Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund 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 17-page 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. Highlights of the findings are:
- Profile of Respondents.
The five largest Asian groups surveyed in 2004 were Chinese (46%), South Asian (25%), Korean (14%), Southeast Asian (6%), and Filipino (5%). 82% were foreign born. 29% had no formal U.S. education. More than a third (38%) were first-time voters.
- Asian Americans were largely Democratic voters.
Almost 60% of Asian Americans were registered Democrats, over a quarter were not enrolled in any political party, and only 1 in 7 Asian Americans were registered Republicans. By a 3 to 1 margin, Asian Americans favored Senator John Kerry over President George W. Bush, 74% to 24%, with 2% voting for other candidates. Among first-time Asian American voters, 78% voted for Kerry, 20% voted for Bush, and 2% voted for other candidates.
- Party crossover voting favored Democrats.
18% of all Asian Republicans crossed party lines to vote for Kerry. By contrast, 7% of Asian Democrats voted for Bush. Among Asian voters not enrolled in any political party, more than two thirds (70%) voted for Kerry, while 26% voted for Bush.
- Economy/jobs was the most important issue to Asian Americans in voting for President.
Overall, the most important issues for voters were Economy/Jobs (26%), followed by the War in Iraq (16%), Terrorism/Security (16%) and Health Care (14%). Asian Americans who voted for Kerry were most influenced by the Economy/Jobs (29%), followed by the War in Iraq (18%) and Health Care (15%). Among Bush supporters, the most important factors influencing their vote for President were Terrorism/Security (33%), Economy/Jobs (18%), and the War in Iraq (11%).
- Asian Americans shared common political interests, even across ethnic lines.
Regardless of ethnicity, almost all Asian ethnic groups voted as a bloc for the same candidates and identified common reasons for their vote. Voters were asked to select the most important civil rights/immigrants rights issue from the following choices: Affirmative Action, Civil Liberties, Deportation/ Detention, Hate Crimes, Immigration Backlogs, Language Barriers to Services, Legalization of Immigrants, Racial Profiling, Voting/Political Representation, and Workers Rights. Civil Liberties was the top choice for each ethnic group.
- Asian Americans turned to ethnic media outlets for their main source of news.
More than half (51%) of all respondents got their news about politics and community issues from the ethnic press, rather than from mainstream media outlets. The ethnic newspaper was the most common source among those using ethnic media. 36% of voters got their news from ethnic media sources in Asian languages.
- Language assistance and bilingual ballots are needed to preserve access to the vote.
41% of Asian Americans expressed that they were limited English proficient. 14% identified English as their native language. 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 2004 elections, almost a third of all respondents needed some form of language assistance to vote. The greatest beneficiaries of language assistance (46%) were first-time voters.
- Asian Americans faced many voting barriers.
Hundreds of voters were directed to the wrong poll site and complained of hostile, rude or poorly trained poll workers. In one instance, 66% of voters who did not have to show identification were required to provide identification. AALDEF poll monitors and pollsters received more than 600 complaints of voting problems.
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 those surveyed in AALDEF’s 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.