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Survey Shows Asian Americans Could Play Key Role in Midterms

Asian Americans have tripled in number over the past 20 years and most don't affiliate with a political party. Why this vote matters in the midterms.
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With the midterm elections under a month away, newly released data reveals that Asian Americans may play a key part in deciding which party controls Congress.

According to a voter survey, "Left, Right or Center?" by APIAVote & Asian Americans Advancing Justice, most voters of Asian descent are planning to head to polls on November 4. The two groups say candidates in swing districts should be paying attention -- most of the registered voters surveyed say they aren’t affiliated with a political party.

“Asian Americans are up for grabs, and essentially the ideal voter because we get out to vote and we don’t vote down party lines,” said Mee Moua, president and executive director of Asian Americans Advancing Justice - AAJC. “It would be a mistake this election for candidates not to reach out to Asian Americans."

Turnout among registered Asian-American voters is expected to be at least 60% and could be as high as 77%, with more outreach before the election.

The Asian-American population has tripled in the past 20 years, as has their political presence. The number of registered voters has seen an average increase of 600,000 per midterm election cycle. Asian-American congressional candidates have grown from 10 in 2010, to 39 this year. And the number of organizations working to get out the vote has also seen an uptick -- from 154 in 2012 to 317 just two years later.

Moua also notes that in over 60 Congressional districts -- in states as diverse as California, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Minnesota, Maryland and New York -- Asian Americans of voting age make up at least eight percent of the population, enough to swing a close race.

While most of those surveyed self-identified as independent, respondents who aligned with a political party identified as Democrats by a 2-to-1 margin. According to the survey, alignment with Democratic ideals is strongest on issues of health care and income inequality, and moderate on gun control and immigration.

"Asian Americans vote based on the candidate and the issues the candidate stands for"

The Republican Party was viewed among those polled as stronger on national security, and Asian-American Republicans were more enthusiastic than the population at large, meaning that they are more likely to vote.

The Asian-American voters questioned had similar concerns about the country as the population at large. A significant proportion ranked concerns about the economy highly (41%), with very few (24%) saying the economy was in good shape. However, half of Asian voters approve of President Obama’s job performance, which is considerably more than his current approval rating of 40 percent. As a whole, the Asian-American community cited national security (42%), jobs (41%), gun control (40%) and health care (40%) as their most important election issues.

“Candidates need to put in the time, and really connect with the Asian-American community," said Moua, "because Asian Americans vote based on the candidate and the issues the candidate stands for."

Image: voting in Fresno, Calif.
Asian Americans surveyed cited national security (42%), jobs (41%), gun control (40%) and health care (40%) as their important election issues.MARK CROSSE / The Fresno Bee via AP