Press Release

The Southeast Asian American Vote 2004


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.

AALDEFs 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.

Today, AALDEF released a special analysis of exit poll results of 654 Southeast Asian Americans polled in the 8 states. Highlights of the findings are:

  • Profile of Respondents.

The five largest Southeast Asian groups surveyed in 2004 were Vietnamese (53%), Cambodian (22%), Thai (7%), Laotian (7%), and Hmong (4%). 85% were foreign born. One in five (21%) had no formal U.S. education. Almost half (46%) were first-time voters. * Southeast Asian Americans were largely Democratic voters.

40% of Southeast Asian Americans were registered Democrats, a quarter were not enrolled in any political party, and 33% were registered Republicans. Asian Americans favored Senator John Kerry over President George W. Bush, 52% to 47%, with 1% voting for other candidates. * Economy/jobs was the most important issue influencing the vote for President.

Overall, the most important issues for voters were Economy/Jobs (24%), followed by Terrorism/Security (20%), and Health Care (16%). * The most important civil rights/immigrants rights issue to Southeast Asians was Civil Liberties.

Civil Liberties (23%) was the top choice, followed by Affirmative Action (12%), Voting/Political Representation (11%), and Workers Rights (10%). Respondents also selected other issues—Deportation/Detention, Hate Crimes, Immigration Backlogs, Language Barriers to Services, Legalization of Immigrants, and Racial Profiling—but each was selected by less than 10% of respondents. * Southeast Asian Americans turned to ethnic media outlets for their main source of news.

Close to half (48%) of all respondents got their news about politics and community issues from the ethnic press, rather than from mainstream media outlets. Over a quarter (26%) 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.

47% of Southeast Asian Americans expressed that they were limited English proficient. 6% identified English as their native language. A number of jurisdictions voluntarily provided language assistance. In the 2004 elections, over a third of all respondents needed some form of language assistance in order to exercise the right to vote, either in the form of interpreters or translated written materials. * Asian Americans faced many voting barriers.

Many voters were directed to the wrong poll sites and complained of hostile, rude or poorly trained poll workers. Many who did not have to provide 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 all Asian Americans surveyed in AALDEFs 8-state 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.

Copies of the report can be downloaded by clicking here Download PDF.