Quick Hit Ashlee Rezin Monday July 23rd, 2012, 11:17am

Growing Asian American, Pacific Islander Voting Bloc Being Ignored, Poll Finds

Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) voters are expected to make a record turnout for the presidential election this November, however the findings of a recent poll revealed that candidates and their parties have largely ignored this rapidly growing voter population.

More than 1,100 Asian American and Pacific Islander voters from across the country were surveyed in April. The poll, organized by nonpartisan Asian American Justice Center, APIAVote and the Asian American Institute, marks the first time voting trends among Asian Americans have been examined.

Conducted by Lake Research Partners, results show that approximately 4 out of 5 Asian Americans in Illinois report being almost certain to vote this November.

Majority of Illinois’ AAPI voters favor the Democratic Party at both the congressional and presidential levels, according to the poll results; however a significant percentage of individuals see no, or doesn’t know, the differences between the parties.

“Political candidates and parties who ignore us as a voting population do so at their own peril,” said Mee Moua, president of the Asian American Justice Center. She was the first Hmong American woman elected to a state legislature, where she served as a member of the Minnesota Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party from 2002 to 2010.

“Individuals who are willing to invest resources to engage in our community will gain both in the short term, in this election cycle, but will also gain in the longer term, because we’re a growing population,” she said. “Even though this population is substantially immigrant, they consume information in English… There is no longer an excuse for neglect, or rational that it’s too complicated, to think about a strategy to reach this population.”

Two-third of the individuals polled favor Obama over Romney, however one in five remain undecided. One out of every three Asian American voters in Illinois have either never heard of Mitt Romney, the presumptive GOP presidential nominee, or have no opinion of him.

“There’s a large population of voters that haven’t completely formed their opinion of the candidates,” said David Mermin, partner at Lake Research Partners, and lead pollster. “Across the board there is plenty of opportunity to reach out to these voters to solidify their support.”

Mermin said that majority of the individuals polled had not been contacted by either political party in the more than two years.

“Eighty percent of these voters speak another language at home, and while they consume a lot of news in English, many would prefer in-language communication,” he said. “Twenty-five percent said they would be more likely to vote if they received assistance in their own language.”

At more than 670,000 people, the Asian American population in Illinois has increased more than 40 percent since 2000, according to the 2010 Census.

“There is a stereotype that our community doesn’t vote,” said Andrew Kang, senior staff attorney at the Asian American Institute. “We need to have more consistent engagement between legislators and the Asian American population.”

Despite the dismal findings of the poll, Kang said he believed trends are changing and more political figures are reaching out to AAPI voters.

Earlier this year, Illinois saw a push toward more engagement in the Asian American community through the formation of Springfield’s first Asian American Caucus, which, although there are no Asian American legislators, includes House Deputy Majority Leader Lou Lang (D-Skokie).

“If candidates make the effort to reach out to the community and show up and engage in a dialogue, they will win more favorable opinions,” said Kang.

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