Three out of five Fil Ams surveyed in New Jersey voted for Obama, says AALDEF report

by Kobakila News

NEW YORK (May 22) — The Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF) released today detailed findings from its multilingual exit poll of Asian American voters in New Jersey during the November 2008 presidential elections.  AALDEF, a 35-year-old national civil rights organization, polled 16,665 Asian American voters in 39 cities in eleven states on Election Day:  New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Maryland, Michigan, Illinois, Louisiana, Texas, Nevada, and Washington, DC.

In conjunction with Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, AALDEF Staff Attorney Glenn Magpantay and Voting Rights Coordinator Bryan Lee presented findings from the 2008 exit poll with comparative information in the following areas: Vote for President and Congress; concerns about key issues, first-time voters, voting barriers, and profiles of the Asian American vote by ethnicity, nativity, party enrollment, citizenship tenure, and English proficiency.

AALDEF surveyed a total of 1,553 Asian American voters in East Brunswick, Edison, Fort Lee, Jersey City, Palisades Park, and Tenafly.  The five largest ethnic groups surveyed were Korean (35%), Asian Indian (33%), Chinese (12%), Filipino (8%), and Pakistani (4%).  Eighty-three percent (83%) were foreign-born naturalized U.S. citizens, and 22% had no formal U.S. education.  Thirty percent (30%) were first-time voters.

The majority of Asian Americans voted for Democratic candidate Barack Obama for President.  More than three-fourths (77%) of Asian Americans in New Jersey supported Democratic candidate Barack Obama for President, with 22% voting for Republican candidate John McCain.  Among Asian ethnic groups, South Asian Americans gave Obama the most support, with 92% of those polled voting for the Democratic candidate.  Three out of four (73%) Chinese American respondents voted for Obama, with 24% voting for McCain.  Other groups also supported Obama, but at lower rates.  Among Korean American voters polled, 68% supported Obama and 32% supported McCain.  Three out of five (57%)  Filipino American respondents voted for the Democratic candidate, and 41% supported the Republican candidate.

The majority of Asian Americans supported Democratic candidates for Congress.  Three out of four (73%) Asian Americans polled voted for the Democratic candidates for Congress, while 13% supported the Republican candidates.

The majority of Asian Americans were registered Democrats.  Just over half of New Jersey’s Asian Americans (51%) were registered Democrats, and 34% were not enrolled in any political party.  Thirteen percent of those polled were registered Republicans.  Seven out of ten (70%) South Asian Americans were registered Democrats, 4% were Republicans, and 24% were not affiliated with any party.  Among Korean Americans, 40% of those polled were registered Democrats, 20% were Republicans, and 39% were not enrolled in any party.  Thirty-seven percent of Filipino Americans were registered Democrats, 25% were Republicans, and 34% were not affiliated with any party.  Among Chinese American respondents, 34% of those polled were registered Democrats, 13% were Republicans, and half (50%) were not enrolled in any party.

Economy/Jobs was the most important issue to Asian Americans.  The three most important factors influencing the New Jersey Asian American vote for President were: Economy/Jobs (69%), Health Care (39%) and Foreign Policy/War in Iraq (35%).  These top choices were generally the same among different Asian ethnic groups.  However Civil Rights/Immigrant Rights (34%) was a top issue for Korean Americans, along with Health Care (33%) and Economy/Jobs (58%).

Limited English proficiency and the need for language assistance.  Twenty-eight percent of respondents in New Jersey were limited English proficient (LEP).  Korean speakers had relatively high LEP rates, exceeding more than half of those polled in Tenafly (69%), Palisades Park (62%), and Fort Lee (56%).  Twenty-two percent  of respondents in those cities also preferred to vote with language assistance.  Among native Gujarati speakers in Middlesex County, 29% were LEP, and 12% preferred to vote with language assistance.  In East Brunswick, 27% of native Chinese speakers were LEP and 14% of respondents preferred to vote with language assistance.

AALDEF’s multilingual exit polls reveal vital information about Asian American voting patterns that is often overlooked in mainstream voter surveys.  AALDEF has conducted exit polls of Asian American voters in every major election since 1988.  In the 2004 Presidential Election, AALDEF surveyed 10,789 Asian American voters in eight states.  More than 100 community groups and organizations joined AALDEF to mobilize over 1,500 attorneys, law students, and volunteers to conduct the exit poll and to safeguard the voting rights of Asian Americans.

The May 22nd presentation was co-sponsored by the Asian Pacific American Lawyers Association of New Jersey, Korean American Voters’ Council, South Asian Bar Association of New Jersey, South Asian Americans Leading Together, and Organization of Chinese Americans – New Jersey Chapter.

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