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New Report Looks at Asian American and Pacific Islander Electorate

J. Mijin Cha

A new report looks at the voting patterns in the last election of the fastest growing racial groups in the U.S.—Asian American and Pacific Islanders (AAPI). A collaborative effort between Asian American Justice Center, Asian and Pacific Islander American Vote, and National Asian American Survey, the report presents results from the 2012 Asian American and Pacific Islander Post-Election Survey, the largest nationally representative survey of Asian American and Pacific Islander voters in 2012. The survey was also the only one conducted in nine languages, English and Spanish.

The results of the survey show a diverse voter population with varying rates of participation. Overall, 79 percent of eligible AAPI voted. In comparison, only 57.5 percent of the eligible general population voted in 2012. However, within the AAPI population, turnout varied greatly by ethnicity. Hmong, Japanese, India, and Vietnamese populations had participation rates higher than 80 percent. The Laotian population, however, had a turnout rate of only 40 percent. Most AAPI voted in person but interestingly, 51 percent of Japanese voters voted by mail.

While AAPI have an overall high rate of voter participation, there is very little outreach to these populations. The survey found that only 31 percent of Asian Americans and 26 percent of Pacific Islanders were contacted by campaigns, political parties, or other election-focused groups. There were again differences among ethnic groups with the most outreach to Hmong populations (49 percent) and the least to Indian populations (25 percent).

In terms of voter priorities, as the table below shows, the overall top three areas of concern were the economy and jobs, education and health care. However, those that voted for President Obama listed racial discrimination and the environment as their top two priorities with education and health care tied for third. Romney voters, in comparison, listed national security and economy and jobs as their top two priorities with immigration and social security tied for third.

Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders are becoming a sizeable percentage of the electorate and the low outreach levels are surprising. Given that only 53 percent of AAPI identify with either major party, there is significant untapped potential support for future elections.