Multilingual Exit Polls Show Many Asian Americans are First-Time Voters and Share Common Concerns Across Ethnic Lines
Washington, DC—Asian American voters, despite their diverse backgrounds and languages, voiced common concerns across ethnic lines, citing the economy/jobs as the most important factor in their vote for President and civil liberties as the most important civil rights issue. More than one-third (38%) of those polled were first-time voters, and almost one-half (46%) needed language assistance in order to vote.
The Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF) released these findings from its national multilingual exit poll of almost 11,000 Asian American voters in the November 2004 Election, the largest nonpartisan survey of its kind in the nation, in a briefing today at the Longworth House Office Building.
AALDEF Executive Director Margaret Fung said: Multilingual exit polls reveal vital information about Asian American voting patterns that are regularly overlooked in mainstream voter surveys. This report demonstrates that Asian American voters are increasingly cohesive across ethnic lines. And because so many Asian Americans are first-time voters, language assistance at the polls should be expanded under the Voting Rights Act, to promote greater civic participation.
The new AALDEF 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. 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. The report contains numerous tables and charts that describe the party enrollment, English proficiency and issue preferences of first-time voters, foreign-born voters, women voters, and young voters. Specific highlights of the report include:
- 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.
- 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. Civil Liberties was the top choice for each ethnic group, when 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.
- 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.
AALDEF Staff Attorney Glenn Magpantay noted that many exit poll respondents encountered serious voting barriers, with hundreds of voters directed to the wrong poll site and hostile or poorly trained poll workers making racist remarks to Asian American voters. AALDEF received more than 600 complaints of voting problems, including numerous instances of Asian American voters being improperly required to show identification. Magpantay said, It is critical that civil rights laws are vigorously enforced, so that Asian Americans are not denied their fundamental right to vote.
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.
Based on findings from the 2004 exit poll and AALDEFs election monitoring efforts over the past decade, AALDEF will be advocating for the reauthorization of the Voting Rights Act in 2007, 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, including the discriminatory application of ID requirements under the Help America Vote Act (HAVA).
The 2004 multilingual exit poll was conducted in 23 Asian languages and dialects. AALDEF worked with the following co-sponsors 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: 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.
Copies of the report can be downloaded by clicking here Download PDF.