Research Shows Asian-American Voters Hungry for Political Engagement

A survey of Asian-American California voters shows they want more information about ballot measures.  (Frederic J. Brown/AFP/Getty Images))

They make up nearly 15 percent of California’s population, yet they are often ignored in polling and, by extension, political campaigns.

But research released this week by the liberal Ballot Initiative Strategy Center shows Asian-American communities in California are eager for more political engagement -- particularly around ballot measures.

The center, in conjunction with two research firms, conducted a series of focus groups and polled more than 1,800 Chinese, Korean, Vietnamese and Filipino voters this spring and summer.

Cristina Uribe, the Ballot Initiative Strategy Center’s California director, said the research indicates all four subgroups trend Democratic and see education and health care as key issues, she says. And while they know plenty about the presidential race, there's one area of their ballot they want more information about.

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"While they see ballot initiatives in many ways as more impactful, overwhelmingly though, they are not hearing about ballot measures," Uribe said. "There’s such an opportunity to reach these voters because no one is communicating with them."

Uribe believes it’s the largest Asian-American sample size ever surveyed in California. She said most respected surveys in California -- including those conducted by the Field Poll and the Public Policy Institute of California -- don't have a big enough sample size to draw reliable conclusions.

She said while "there's an assumption of a more conservative nature," among at least some API (Asian Pacific Islander) communities, the polling showed otherwise.

All four subgroups polled overwhelmingly supported ballot measures pushed by liberal groups -- Proposition 55, which would extend a tax on high-income earners to fund education and health care; and Proposition 56, which would add a $2-a-pack tax to cigarettes and other tobacco products.

"Education and health care really resonate high with these voters," Uribe said.

Another issue that more than 80 percent of poll respondents listed as a priority? The environment. Uribe said that surprised her, and that it presents a political opportunity moving forward.

But she said political campaigns shouldn’t make the mistake of treating the Asian-American population as a monolith.

"They more readily identify with their own communities than they do as Asian-Americans or APIs," she said.

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