How immigrants are redefining 'American' in Southern California

The diversity of the Asian American vote

A flier from last November advertising where South Asians could vote.
A flier from last November advertising where South Asians could vote. Courtesy New America Media

Back in November, it was reported that Asian American voters turned out in larger numbers than ever and that the majority voted to reelect President Barack Obama. But much like Latino voters, this diverse community does not vote in a bloc, according to newly released election day exit poll data.

The Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund has released detailed results from its multilingual exit poll of 9,096 Asian Americans who voted in the election. It reveals how the way Asian Americans vote differs not only along ethnic lines, but according to where they live.

For example, while 77 percent of Asian Americans overall voted  for Mr. Obama, some groups supported him more strongly than others. Ninety-six percent of Bangladeshi Americans voted to reelect the president, compared with 44 percent of Vietnamese Americans, who have traditionally skewed conservative.

Asian Americans in Northeastern states like Pennsylvania and New York voted by 89 percent and 86 percent, respectively, for President Obama. But in Louisiana, as few as 16 percent of the Asian Americans polled said they voted for him.

There are other interesting results, including:

  • Mirroring the general electorate, younger Asian Americans leaned heavily toward Mr. Obama, with only 10 percent of those under 30 casting votes for Republican candidate Mitt Romney.
  • Nearly four out of five Asian American voters polled were naturalized U.S. citizens; 27 percent said they voted for the first time in November.
  • While nearly two-thirds of Asian Americans polled said they favor comprehensive immigration reform, this varies by ethnic group: For example, Pakistani and Bangladeshi Americans expressed much more support (78 percent) for reforms with a path to citizenship for the undocumented than did Vietnamese Americans (49 percent).
  • With more than one-third of Asian American voters polled reporting limited English proficiency, there continues to be a need for bilingual voter materials and poll assistance. The greatest need appears to be among Korean speakers, with 67 percent of Korean Americans identifying themselves as speaking limited English.
  • Many reported encountering barriers to voting. For example, 247  poll respondents  said they were required to prove their U.S. citizenship. In terms of language assistance, 183 people said there were no interpreters or translations made available to them.

The polling took place on Election Day in 37 cities in 14 states, including California. 

The Asian American vote will become increasingly influential in future elections. Last year, the U.S. Census Bureau reported that Asians have become the nation's fastest-growing racial group. In California, the rate of immigration from Asia has surpassed that coming from Latin America.

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