When asked which candidate they support as the Democratic presidential candidate for 2020, Asian American and Pacific Islander voters show the most support for former vice president Joe Biden, Sen. Bernie Sanders and Sen. Elizabeth Warren as frontrunners, according to a survey conducted in late August by Change Research that was sponsored by political PAC AAPI Victory Fund and Investingin.Us.
Results largely reflect polling data for the general Democratic primary electorate as the third Democratic presidential primary debate nears.
Questions in the poll distinguished between who a voter would support versus who they’d like to see as the Democratic Party candidate — the latter ultimately tagged Biden as the preferred candidate. AAPI Victory Fund President Varun Nikore said that this suggests voters judge electability differently. A voter may support a certain candidate, but when it comes to the election, they believe that Biden has the best chance at beating President Donald Trump.
Andrew Yang leads the second tier of preferred candidates, polling eight percentage points below Biden, Warren and Sanders. Respondents see Yang as the candidate who best understands issues facing AAPI populations.
The poll was conducted ahead of the AAPI Victory Fund’s Progressive Democratic Presidential Forum, held in Orange County on Sunday.
Most surprising from the poll were results that showed an overwhelming support for workers’ rights to unionize and organize, with 94 percent of respondents in approval, demonstrating what Nikore says is a more “matured” sense of “economic empathy” among AAPI. While Democratic candidates catering to AAPI voters tend to appeal to progressive stances on immigration and education, the poll suggests that climate change and healthcare are top concerns.
While the AAPI Victory Fund only represents Democratic candidates, the poll also shows that disapproval for Trump has strengthened. On immigration policies, respondents feel relatively neutral about the decline in H1B visas allocated for tech workers and the increasing difficulty in obtaining student visas. With regard to issues abroad, respondents feel disappointed by Trump’s approach to relations with North Korea and how he is protecting the Pacific Islands from global warming.
Misunderstanding which issues to prioritize could cost Democrats loyal voters. Seventy-seven percent of Asian Americans voted for Democrats, according to 2018 exit polls. A group at the University of California called AAPI Data found that in 2018, AAPI voters may have been determinant in races where their electorate numbered more than the margin of victory.
With 14 months until the election, AAPI community organizers and Democratic campaigns still struggle to engage this population. In 2016, only 49 percent of Asian Americans voted, compared to 65 percent non-Hispanic whites and 59 percent of African American populations.
The Victory Fund’s poll data shows that only 42 percent of the AAPI population say they are following the Democratic primary closely. Nikore said holding polls like this to set candidates’ agendas can help them better speak to a powerful electorate body.
“What’s important for us at this stage is to amplify how API feel on key issues so the candidates have that awareness,” Nikore said. “We need to get the bull into the pen so they can come up with plans to address our community’s concerns.”