Press Release

New Report on the Asian American Vote in the 2008 Elections Shows Widespread Support for Obama and Growing Numbers of First-Time Voters


AALDEF’s Multilingual Exit Poll of 16,665 Asian Americans in Eleven States Reveals Voting Preferences, Party Affiliation, Key Issues of Concern, and Need for Language Assistance

Today, the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF) released detailed findings from its nonpartisan multilingual exit poll of 16,665 Asian American voters in the November 2008 Presidential elections, the largest survey of its kind in the nation. AALDEF, a 35-year old New York-based national organization, polled 16,665 Asian American voters in 11 states on Election Day: New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Maryland, Michigan, Illinois, Louisiana, Texas, Nevada, and Washington, D.C. The report can be downloaded at here.

AALDEF executive director Margaret Fung said, “In the historic 2008 Presidential election, Asian American voters were engaged in the political process like never before. The AALDEF exit poll offers unique insights into the Asian American electorate, which will continue to have growing influence on our nation’s political landscape.”

Glenn Magpantay, AALDEF staff attorney, presented the results of the 2008 multilingual exit poll on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. Key findings from AALDEF’s report, “The Asian American Vote in the 2008 Presidential Election,” include the following:

• Asian Americans are a growing segment of the electorate, with a large proportion of first-time voters and foreign-born naturalized U.S. citizens.

Nearly four out of five (79%) of Asian Americans polled were foreign-born naturalized U.S. citizens. Almost one third (31%) of those polled said that they voted for the first time in the 2008 Presidential Elections.

• Asian Americans shared common political interests, even across ethnic lines.

In the Presidential election, Asian Americans voted as a bloc for the same candidates and identified common reasons for their votes. Every Asian ethnic group selected Economy/Jobs as the most important factor influencing their vote for President. The ten largest Asian ethnic groups in the exit poll were Chinese (32%), Asian Indian (15%), Korean (14%), Bangladeshi (8%), Vietnamese (6%), Filipino (5%), Pakistani (4%), Indo-Caribbean (4%), Arab (3%), and Cambodian (2%).

• Asian Americans voted for Barack Obama by a 3 to 1 margin, with a majority registered as Democrats.

Over three-quarters (76%) of Asian Americans polled voted for Barack Obama for President, with 23% supporting John McCain. In 30 of the 45 congressional districts where the exit poll was conducted, a majority of Asian Americans supported Democratic candidates. Among Asian Americans polled, more than half (58%) were registered Democrats, 13% were registered Republicans, and 26% were not enrolled in any political party.

• Economy/Jobs was the most important factor influencing the Asian American vote for President.

Overall, the most important factors influencing Asian Americans in their vote for President were: Economy/Jobs (66%), Health Care (40%), and Foreign Policy/War in Iraq (31%). Other top issues for Asian American voters included Education (27%), Civil Rights/Immigrant Rights (23%), Terrorism/Security (14%), and Crime in Neighborhoods (6%).

• Most Asian Americans favored health insurance and medical coverage for all persons, regardless of immigration status.

Of those who expressed an opinion, nearly four out of five (79%) respondents supported the provision of health insurance and medical coverage to all persons irrespective of their immigration status.

• Language assistance and bilingual ballots are needed to preserve access to the vote.

More than one-third (35%) of Asian American voters polled were limited English proficient (LEP), defined as speaking English “less than very well.” One out of five (20%) respondents identified English as their native language. Among the different Asian ethnic groups polled, Korean Americans had the highest concentration of LEP voters, with more than half (54%) identifying themselves as LEP, followed by Vietnamese American (53%) and Chinese American voters (45%). Several sites where the exit poll was conducted were mandated to provide bilingual ballots and interpreters under the federal Voting Rights Act; other jurisdictions voluntarily provided language assistance.

According to Census data released in April 2009, Asian American voter registration and turnout have increased in every election, with 4.2 million registered voters and a 3% increase in voter turnout in the 2008 elections.

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. In the 2004 Presidential Election, AALDEF surveyed 10,789 Asian American voters in eight states. More than 100 community groups and organizations joined AALDEF to mobilize over 1,500 attorneys, law students, and volunteers to conduct the exit poll and to safeguard the voting rights of Asian Americans.

Several representatives from co-sponsoring organizations spoke at today’s event, including Naomi Tacuyan Underwood, Deputy Director of APIAVote; George Wu, Executive Director of OCA; and Priya Murthy, Policy Director of South Asian Americans Leading Together.

The June 12th presentation was co-sponsored by the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus, APIAVote, Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance, Asian Pacific American Legal Resource Center, 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, OCA, and South Asian Americans Leading Together.

For more information:
Glenn D. Magpantay
Staff Attorney
212.966.5932 ext. 206

Margaret Fung
Executive Director
212.966.5932 ext. 201