(Image courtesy of SCPR/Getty)
The Asian American community came out in full force on Tuesday, November 6th to cast their ballots for the General Election. Despite being a demographic that was ignored by both presidential candidates, close to three quarters of Asian Americans voted in favor of Barack Obama.
According to the Asian American Election Eve Poll, a joint project of the National Coalition for Asian Pacific American Community Development (National CAPACD) and Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF), 72 percent of Asian Americans voted for Obama this election, a surprising result, since earlier reports showed that only 41 percent of Asian Americans identified themselves as Democrats. On the other side, it was revealed that 26 percent of Asian Americans voted for Mitt Romney. Additionally, in the Congressional races, 73 percent of Asian American voters backed Democratic candidates, while 27 percent backed Republicans.
Although Obama targeted Latino voters more so than he did Asian American voters, the numbers of the National CAPACD poll show that Asian Americans voted in higher numbers for Obama. Latinos voted for President Obama over Republican Romney by 71 percent to 27 percent, according to an analysis of exit polls by the Pew Hispanic Center, a Project of the Pew Research Center.
The National CAPACD poll, which surveyed 800 Asian Americans prior to the election, also found that 51 percent of Asian American voters were not asked by any campaign, political party or community organization to vote or to register to vote. This percentage proves long-standing fact that the API community remains one that is largely untapped by those running for office.
According to Lisa Hasegawa, Executive Director of the National CAPACD, Asian Americans “overwhelmingly named the economy as their top priority, and supported an expansion of the federal government’s program to help low-income people.”
The economy as the main priority issue for Asian Americans falls in line with an article written by David Brooks of The New York Times. Brooks calls Asian Americans a part of what he calls “the party of work,” which meant that not only does the Asian American community work hard, they value government and its ability to create programs that “incite hard work and enhances opportunity.”
According to Brooks, traditionally, the Republican Party’s approach has always had a focus on the basic tenets of American individualism, stressing the importance that “ordinary people are capable of greatness” and that an effective government would enable them to have the “power to shape their own destinies. The 2012 campaign brought this worldview into the forefront of the Republican campaign, stating that the interference of government would interfere with personal initiatives.
This approach did not align with the values of Asian Americans, as “many of these people are leading the lives Republicans celebrate. They are, disproportionately, entrepreneurial, industrious and family-oriented. Yet, for the General Election, Asian-Americans rejected the Republican Party by 3 to 1. They don’t relate to the Republican equation that more government = less work.”
The rejection of the Republican Party by the Asian American community, according Hasegawa, was due to the fact that Romney failed to construct a narrative to attract Asian American voters as effectively as Obama did. Asian American voters were also drawn to Obama over Romney because of the way he framed key issues — 47 percent felt that Obama “truly cared about them,” while only 14 percent said Romney did.
In addition to the economy, the deficit proved to be another issue.
According to the poll, 26 percent of Asian American voters favor increasing taxes on the wealthy in order to reduce the deficit, while 45 percent wanted to combine these tax hikes with spending cuts. Conversely, 71 percent did not think spending cuts alone will solve the budget deficit. And, In California, 73 percent of Asian Americans voted in favor of Proposition 30, a temporary tax on the wealthy to help fund education and public safety.
Health care was another priority issue that was shown closely linked to the economy. The poll revealed that 60 percent responded that the government should ensure access to health insurance.
Since the effort to appeal to Asian American voters was still low for this election, it was largely up to community organizations and their efforts to encourage the Asian American community to get out the vote. CAUSE, which has held an election forum and voter information and registration sessions in addition to participating in phone banking and poll monitoring with Asian Pacific American Legal Center’s “Your Vote Matters! 2012” campaign is one of the many groups nationwide that have helped mobilize the Asian American community. Additionally, Hasegawa stated that the National CAPACD supported 25 groups in 14 states over the election season to help educate Asian American and Pacific Islander voters and get them to the polls on Election Day.
According to Congresswoman Judy Chu, Chair for the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus, the poll sheds light on the issues that greatly impact the Asian American community and “gives policymakers a better understanding of how Asian Americans view policy priorities for our communities.” Congressman Mike Honda also shared similar sentiments about the poll’s findings.
"Asian Americans were hit hard during the recession — and this poll shows that they are focused on finding solutions to the economic downturn,” said Congressman Honda, Chair Emeritus for the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus. “This poll provides critical information about what’s important for Asian Americans and should be used as a resource for elected officials as they develop policies that will have an impact in our communities.”