Are Asian American voters being ignored?

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A major poll of the political outlooks of Asian Americans revealed that neither Democrats nor Republicans are doing much to tap into the voting power of one of the fastest growing ethnic populations in the state of Illinois - and in the country.

The results were part of a national survey organized by the nonpartisan organization Asian Pacific Islander Vote and the Asian American Justice Center.

According to lead pollster David Mermin, who spoke in a news conference call on July 17, they were able to draw some conclusions about the political leanings of Asian American voters. "They are really quite solidly behind the Democratic Party," he remarked. "In particular, they think that Democrats do better than Republicans at treating all Americans fairly and equally."

Mermin cautioned, though, that Asian Illinoisans could be more prone to lean toward Republican candidates when it came to Congressional elections. Furthermore, he added, "While Democrats have a clear advantage with these voters, there is a substantial undecided vote as well." In fact, poll findings showed that nearly one quarter of Asian Americans who took part in the survey would be undecided between a GOP or Democratic candidate if a Congressional election were to be held now.

This could be partially attributed, he suggested, to the lack of outreach to this group. "The Republicans have really fallen short in their effort to communicate with these voters," said Mermin. "On the Republican side, it's up to 75 percent [of Asian Illinois residents] not getting contact." Democrats, too, have fallen behind on making contact with them, Mermin noted.

These facts, said Mermin, "suggest a need to clarify to these voters what the differences are for candidates who want to win their votes."

The dilemma will worsen over time, too, because, according to APIAVote executive director Christine Chen, 600,000 new Asian Americans have become part of the electorate since 2008, and that number is expected to grow continuously.

The good news for Obama supporters is that, nationwide, 59 percent of Asian Americans would vote for President Obama in the election; that's an increase of three percent over those who said they would vote for him back in 2008. And that 59 percent is even more uplifting for Obama when compared to just 13 percent of U.S. Asians who intend to vote for Republican Mitt Romney.

The state of Nevada, meanwhile, is a bit of a wild card, the survey found. That's because there, Asian Americans were found to be highly critical of Obama, and leaned more toward Romney. Mermin noted that four in five Asian Nevada residents said they would vote this year. He underscored the fact, however, that the Democratic Party had contacted only 28 percent of them this year.

Mee Moua, president and executive director of the Asian American Justice Center, commented, "Not only are party leaders not paying attention to those of us who are already in their base, they're not even fighting for those of us who are independent and waiting to be wooed."

The general consensus was that more attention would have to be given to this portion of the electorate.

"The political leaders who engage the Asian American communities as part of their core strategy will be rewarded by the margin of victory they deserve," Moua concluded. "And those who ignore us...do so at their own peril."

Photo: President Obama shakes hands with Rep. Judy Chu, D.-Calif., at the Asian Pacific American Institute for Congressional Studies dinner. 59 percent of Asian Americans nationwide say they will vote for Obama this year. Carolyn Kaster/AP

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