Rare survey spotlights Asian-American voters' priorities

Asian American voters overwhelmingly supported Proposition 56 which raised California's tobacco tax.
Asian American voters overwhelmingly supported Proposition 56 which raised California's tobacco tax.
Dave Martin/AP

How Asian-Americans vote is often a mystery. That's because small numbers are polled at a time, and surveys are often in English, making it hard to get a clear look at a group that speaks many languages.

But a newly released national survey of some 2,400 Asian-Americans, pollsters asked questions in English and six Asian languages, helping, they say, to shed light on top voting priorities.

For example, in California, Asian-American support was overwhelming for two of the state's 17 ballot measures — both of which were projected to pass — demonstrating to one civic advocate an emphasis on improving outcomes for young people.

Steve Kang of the Korean American Coalition said he wasn't surprised by survey results showing Proposition 55, a tax extension to fund local schools, had the support of 77 percent percent of Asian-Americans.

"A lot of the parents are very much invested in their children’s education," Kang said.

Meanwhile, Proposition 56, which sought to raise the tobacco tax, got 80 percent support from Asian-American voters, according to the survey. Kang said that's because of high levels of smoking among Korean-American young people. Nearly a quarter of those aged 18 to 24 smoke.

"I’ve met a lot of the parents in L.A. expressing a desire to discourage their own children as well as the other people in the community to quit smoking," Kang said.

The survey, called the Asian-American Election Eve poll, was led by AAPI Civic Engagement Fund with help from partners like Asian-Americans Advancing Justice in Los Angeles. Voters were surveyed via telephone and the Internet, in languages such as Hindi and Tagalog.

"These polls are conducted precisely because most mainstream polls get it wrong with Asian-Americans," said Dan Ichinose, research director at AAAJ-LA. "They either don't collect enough data, or survey enough Asian-Americans. Or they don't do it in-language."

Other findings include: