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Two Surveys Paint Picture of Asian American Voters

Unequal VoicesBy Louis Chan
AsAmNews National Correspondent

Two surveys recently released paint a vivid picture of Asian American voters.

Although both surveys were conducted in California, the scarcity of polling on Asian Americans and the large population of Asian Americans in the Golden State  (30.9% of Asian Americans live in California) make the results significant.

The survey conducted by the University of California, Riverside School of Public Policy and the Advancement Project found Asian American and Latino voters lag in political participation when compared to White and Black voters.

“Our political system is in trouble when some groups have significantly more say than others,” said political scientist Karthick Ramakrishnan, co-author of the report and associate dean of the UC Riverside School of Public Policy. “This election cycle rightly has brought heightened awareness about class inequality, but our report raises the alarm about racial disparities in political participation that persist even after taking class into account.”

A poll from the Pat Brown Institute of Public Affairs at Cal State University, Los Angeles, revealed young Asian American voters are more socially liberal and more likely to be born in the United States. Older Asian American voters are more socially conservative, more likely to be foreign born and less likely to participate in the Democratic process.

The results also mirror recent national polling

The Pat Brown Institute surveyed 1608 Asian American voters in multiple languages ( Cantonese, Japanese, Korean, Mandarin, Tagalog and English), but only in Los Angeles County where there are 1.34 million Asian Americans. It found Filipino and Japanese American voters had the greatest English language proficiency among Asian Americans.  It also found that foreign born were more religious than native born with Filipinos and Korean Americans much more so than Chinese and Japanese.

59% of Asian American voters in Los Angeles County are foreign born versus 42% American born.  However, native born voters are more likely to contact their elected officials, attend a public meeting, protest, volunteer in a campaign and donate to a candidate.

“Whenever I volunteered on campaigns and we did phone banking in (the Korean) language, we used to get skyrocketing numbers of ‘yeses,’” said David Ryu to Voice of America. He is the first Korean American elected to the Los Angeles City Council. “And many of the campaigns thought, ‘How is this possible?’ It’s because no one ever told them to vote!”

Despite the differences, the polling found Asian Americans across age and ethnicity agree on the desire for representation, support for increase in minimum wage, health care and immigration reform and are religious (even among younger voters).

Younger voters are much more likely to support a path to citizenship, same sex marriage and legalized abortion.

The survey was released June 29.

One day later UC Riverside and the Advancement Project released its survey. It found just 1 in 20 Asian Americans and Latinos had contacted their elected officials versus 1 in 10 Blacks and 1 in 6 Whites.

Socioeconomic factors account for these differences, but even when   factors such as home ownership, education and   income were removed, Blacks and Whites still outpaced Asians and Latinos in political participation. Lower rates of citizenship worsen the problem.

In the last three presidential races, just 53% of Pacific Islanders and 48% of Asian Americans went to the polls compared to 65% and 68% for Blacks and Whites.

The participation is worse in the midterm elections when 41% of Pacific Islanders and 32% of Asian Americans voted in the last three elections versus 38% and 53% for Blacks and Whites.

“We cannot achieve a healthy democracy for all when the voices of communities of color are shut out of our political process,” said John Kim, Executive Director, Advancement Project. “Policymaking in Sacramento and in cities and counties across the state must reflect the diverse range of voices that now make up California.”


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