By Louis Chan
AsAmNews National Correspondent
An election day survey of nearly 14,000 Asian American voters from 55 cities and 14 states has found 30 percent of those polled were first-time voters.
That’s a three percent increase from a similar poll in 2012 also conducted by the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund .
The highest rates of first-time voters were among South Asians, with 43% of Bangladeshi, 40% of Pakistani, 27% of Asian Indian, and 23% of Indo-Caribbean telling pollsters they voted for the first time.
The increase may be a sign of the growing political participation of Asian Americans.
“Every major election-a new record is set for the number of Asian Americans running for office,” Jerry G. Vattamala, Director of the Democracy Program at AALDEF said to AsAmNews. “The community is becoming more politically sophisticated and engaged and is achieving electoral success at local and national levels. Many policies and issues are or have the potential to affect Asian Americans.”
In November, a record number of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders were elected to national office. There are currently 12 Asian Americans in the House of Representatives and three in the Senate. There is one elected Pacific Islander and two non-voting members in the House of Representatives.
The trend of increased participation bodes well for Democrats as the AALDEF survey confirmed once again that AAPIs overwhelmingly vote Democratic.
“With overwhelming Asian American support for Democratic candidates in the 2016 elections and a rejection of the Trump agenda, it will be important to watch the growth of Asian American voter participation in the 2018 midterm elections,” said AALDEF’s Executive Director Margaret Fung.
59% of those polled identified themselves as Democrats. 27% of Asian Americans polled said they don’t belong to any party and 11 percent identified as Republicans. The majority of every major Asian american subgroup except Vietnamese Americans were 50% Democrat or higher. 39% of Vietnamese Americans said they were registered Democrats compared to 31% independent and 27% Republican.
Despite the increase, Asian Americans still have catching up to do as Asian Americans lag behind almost every other ethnic group in voter participation in California, a state with a significant Asian American population.
One possible explanation may be barriers to voting. One out of three Asian Americans surveyed say they were limited-English proficient.
AALDEF received 281 complaints of voting problems ranging from hostile and poorly trained poll workers to unlawfully being required to provide identification.
“The Asian Americans that do come out to vote, particularly limited English proficient (LEP) voters often face barriers to voting – which is a continuing and long-standing problem,” said Vattamala. “We will do our best to remove and/or reduce the barriers.”
Other notable results include 79% of those surveyed supported Hillary Clinton and 20% of Republicans voted for Clinton. Democrats also received increased support in places like Georgia, Louisiana and Nevada.
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