Asian and Latinos Voters Keep Pollsters Guessing

Neither party can take these powerful voting blocs for granted.

By Julianne Hing Nov 23, 2010

Results from a Los Angeles Times and USC poll show that California’s Asian Americans, and Latinos, tend to have more socially and fiscally conservative values, but more liberal views on topics like immigration and education.

The poll numbers can be confusing in an election when Republicans lost every major statewide seat they were up for during the midterms. Asian Americans and Latinos both chose Democrat Jerry Brown over Republican Meg Whitman for governor, and chose Democrat Barbara Boxer over Republican Carly Fiorina for the U.S. Senate seat.

Asian Americans in particular, a new Los Angeles Times piece reported, were more willing to consider Republican candidates during the midterms. They also favor spending cuts over tax hikes to close the state’s massive deficit, and tended to be opposed to gay marriage.

The Los Angeles Times spoke with USC professor Jane Junn, who put some of the numbers in context:

On social issues, "you’ve got to remember where people are coming from," she said. "If you come from China, Korea and Vietnam, you cannot be gay in that society. It’s not allowed, and it’s not open…. It’s a real taboo topic for Asians."

The distance from Latino voters on some illegal immigration matters likewise stems from a "reluctance to break the law and a reluctance not to conform" often born of surviving under repressive governments, Junn said. Also, illegal immigration remains mostly a phenomenon of the southern border, meaning that Latino citizens are more likely to have undocumented relatives than are immigrants from most of Asia.

The lesson, it seems, is that despite having conservative values that often reflect the upbringing of their home countries–many more Asian American voters are foreign-born than the state’s Latino voters–it doesn’t necessarily mean people of color will vote for anti-immigrant Republicans, either. But ultimately, neither party can take these powerful voting blocs for granted, and both ignore them at their own peril.