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The Asian-American Vote

by Joanna Klonsky
October 2, 2008

Which candidate will Asian Americans choose in November? In a new article, Slate writer Christopher Beam asks why pundits and pollsters don’t pay much attention to that question since Asian Americans are the fastest-growing minority group in the United States. One reason, he says, is size. Though Asian Americans make up about five percent of the U.S. population, they have “the lowest proportion of eligible voters compared with the populations (about 52 percent) of any racial group,” he writes.

The issues that matter most to Asian-American voters also vary widely, Beam says. “Chinese care a lot about U.S.-China relations,” he writes. “Taiwanese care about China-Taiwan. Vietnamese favor anti-communist policies. And Filipinos often vote based on whoever supports benefits for Filipino veterans of World War II. Plus, segments of the Asian-American community often disagree—as Taiwanese Americans and Chinese Americans do on Taiwan, for example, or Pakistanis and Indians on Kashmir.”

Both presidential candidates have made an effort to reach out to Asian-American voters. Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) who lived in Indonesia during his childhood, has released a policy program (PDF) for Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. That agenda promotes Obama’s immigration policy and his plan to end the war in Iraq, noting that some 39,000 Asian and Pacific Islander Americans have been deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan since 2001. It also recognizes South Asia as a “key future trade and economic partner” and signals Obama’s intention to “forge a new and lasting framework for collective security in Asia that goes beyond bilateral agreements, occasional summits, and ad-hoc arrangements like the six-party talks.”

Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), a Vietnam War veteran, similarly calls for intensifying the U.S. security partnership with many Asian states in a Foreign Affairs essay. He also calls for stepping up trade liberalization with Asia.

Though major polls of Asian-American voters are lacking, the bloc could impact the outcome in swing states—according to Beam, Asian-Americans are “flooding battleground states like Nevada, Minnesota, and Virginia faster than other immigrant groups.”

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