Asian America Wields More Clout at the Polls


2004.11.01
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WASHINGTON—Millions of American voters with Asian or Pacific Island ancestry join long lines at the polls on Monday—a relatively well-educated and affluent ethnic group that could play a key role in deciding who wins the White House.

A large majority of Asian-American voters—62 percent—believe the 2004 presidential election could well be the most important election of their lifetime.

Out of an estimated 3 million registered Asian-American voters nationally, some 525,000 live in the so-called “battleground states” and could swing the election either way.

A September poll commissioned by the group New California Media and carried out jointly by Florida-based Bendixen and Associates and the Virgina-based Tarrance Group found Kerry with a razor-thin edge over Bush among Asian voters—though some 18 percent were still undecided.

The poll also found that Asian-American voters continue to resist political labels and pose a challenge to political activists because they come from so many different cultures and speak dozens of different languages.

“Asian and Pacific Islander voters remain vastly more undecided than the national average and may be more pivotal than in years past in what is projected to be a close election," Sandy Close, executive director of New California Media, said. The group represents some 700 ethnic print and broadcast U.S. media outlets.

Major findings

Democratic challenger Sen. John Kerry had a strong lead among Chinese, Asian Indian, and Hmong voters, while U.S President Bush held a strong lead among Vietnamese and Filipino voters. Japanese, Korean and Pacific Islander voters split their votes equally between Kerry and Bush.

Younger, better educated Asian-Americans favored Kerry, while Kerry’s lead over Bush among Asian voters in the 18 “battleground states” was the same as his lead among all Asian voters—7 percent. The “battleground states” with the most Asian-American “likely voters” are Washington, Florida, Michigan, Oregon, and Pennsylvania.

Better off than average

The poll also found that a large majority of Asian-American voters—62 percent—believed the 2004 presidential election could well be the most important election of their lifetime.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Asians and Pacific islanders living in the United States are more likely than the general population to be well-educated and live in and around cities.

Some 51 percent of men and 44 percent of women aged at least 25 in this population had a bachelor's degree or higher, compared with 32 percent of non-Hispanic white men and 27 percent of non-Hispanic white women, a 2002 study found.

Some 95 percent of Asian and Pacific islanders lived in metropolitan areas, compared with 78 percent of non-Hispanic whites. And in 2001, 40 percent of Asian and Pacific islander families had incomes of U.S. $75,000 or more, while 17 percent had incomes of less than $25,000.

In 2002, 87 percent of Asian and Pacific islander adults aged at least 25 had at least a high school diploma while only 7 percent had less than a ninth-grade education.

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