One of the 2012 election surprises was the impressive support President Obama got from Asian-American voters—despite being widely ignored by both parties. A widely circulated CNN exit poll pegged Asian American support for Obama in 2012 at 72 percent. But new poll numbers suggest Asian American support for Obama is even stronger than that, and likely just as misunderstood.
Seventy-seven percent of Asian Americans voted for Obama in 2012, according to new findings released by the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund on Thursday. AALDEF conducted a multilingual exit poll on Election Day in 14 states. But in the biggest surprise, a whopping 96 percent of Bangladeshi voters backed Obama, according to AALDEF. That number is higher even than the 93 percent of black voters who voted for Obama in this election. Ninety-one percent of Pakistani voters voted for Obama, as did 84 percent of Asian Indian voters, 81 percent of Chinese, 78 percent of Korean and 65 percent of Filipino voters.
But Obama didn’t get so much love from all Asian groups. More than half of Vietnamese voters—54 percent—backed Republican candidate Mitt Romney, still less than the nearly 60 percent of white voters who voted for Romney. But the Vietnamese community, not unlike Cuban-Americans in the Latino community, tend to vote more conservatively than other Asian Americans.
“Asian Americans are a diverse community with varying social, political, and economic backgrounds,” said AALDEF Executive Director Margaret Fung. What’s more, understanding Asian Americans is of particular relevance to the country. While they’re but 4 percent of the U.S. population, Asian Americans are the fastest-growing racial group in the country.
That wasn’t all. Even though the economy and jobs was foremost in the minds of voters, AALDEF also found that immigration reform, including a path toward citizenship for the nation’s undocumented immigrants, is something that Asian Americans heartily support. Two-thirds of Asian Americans support such reforms.
“Immigration reform is a vote for president,” said Fung. Indeed, 70 percent of Asian Americans who voted for Obama support immigration reform, but a strong 47 percent plurality of those who voted for Romney support comprehensive immigration reform. “Every demographic breakout we’ve been able to run, I assure you has found very very strong support for comprehensive immigration reform with a path to citizenship by Asian American voters.”
The poll is also notable for its methodology, simply because conducting responsible, conscientious research of a community as diverse and divergent as Asian Americans is a considerable feat. Conducted in 13 languages in 37 cities in 14 states on Election Day, the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund’s poll gathered responses from over 9,000 voters of Asian Americans. Check out the rest of their findings here (PDF).