Asian-Americans Could Impact Presidential Race

Richard Lui, NBC News, October 6, 2012

There are plenty of different voter groups for campaigns to court during this presidential election and, this year, Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders could impact the outcome in a significant way. In what has been a tight race, a relatively minor investment in these voters could pay large dividends for President Barack Obama and Republican nominee Mitt Romney.

There are three characteristics to consider about this slice of the electorate:

Swing State Population Levels

First, Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders have reached tipping-point population levels in battleground states.

For example, in Florida, Asian-Americans (single and mixed race) are 3 percent of the population, according to the Asian American Center for Advancing Justice—small, but Obama won the state by just 2.5 percentage points in 2008. In Nevada, Asian-Americans are 9 percent of the population; Obama won by 12.4 percentage points.  And in Virginia, where they are 7 percent; Obama won by 6.3 percentage points.

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Undecideds

A second characteristic to consider: Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders this year are over four times more likely to be undecided than the average voter, according to the National Asian American Survey.  {snip}

Sixty-two percent of them voted for Obama four years ago. But this year, the economy continues to be the biggest issue in the campaign and Asian Americans who own businesses are considering their options.

Democrat Haresh Bhungalia is undecided. {snip}

Immigration reform is the other top issue Bhungalia cares about. It’s been delayed. Like him, three out of four Asian-American adults were born in a foreign country and are watching the debate on immigration.

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{snip} Mee Moua of the Asian American Center for Advancing Justice in Washington, D.C. says Asian-Americans need to be considered.

“As we head toward election day, candidates and political parties will step up their voter engagement efforts,” said Moua. “Those who want to succeed will recognize the importance of the Asian-American voter.  Those who ignore us, do so at their own peril.”

At APIAVote’s Presidential Town Hall in Fairfax, Va., in July, neither candidate showed up, sending videos and surrogates instead. The Romney campaign had bumper stickers in several different Asian languages, and both Obama and Romney have Asian-American outreach information on their campaign websites.

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Donation Rates

A third consideration:  Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders are not afraid to use their economic muscle. (Despite being half to a third the size, the group’s combined consumer and business spending power of almost $1.2 trillion equals African-Americans and just trails Latinos.) They equaled whites for the highest rate of donation to political campaigns in the last election: 13 percent. This was higher than African-Americans (8 percent) and Latino-Americans (5 percent). As the economy faltered, Asian-Americans so far this cycle have donated at 11 percent.

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