New Report Illuminates Asian American Priorities for 2008 Elections, Senate Vote in 2006 Battleground States, and Need for Expanded Language Access

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AALDEF Exit Poll Surveyed over 4,700 Voters in Nine States and 23 Cities During Decisive Midterm Elections

Washington, DCToday, the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF), a 33-year-old national civil rights organization, released detailed findings from its nonpartisan, multilingual exit poll of more than 4,700 Asian American voters in 23 cities and in nine states on Election Day 2006New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, Illinois, and Washingtonas well as Washington, D.C. Released during Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, AALDEFs exit poll was the largest survey of Asian American voters conducted during the midterm elections last November.

Margaret Fung, AALDEF executive director, said "In the 2006 midterm elections, Asian American voters continued a decade-long shift to support Democratic candidates, which played a role in the dramatic leadership changes in Congress. Elected officials and policymakers should pay close attention to the viewpoints of the fast-growing Asian American community in the 2008 elections."

According to Census data, Asian Americans numbered over 14.4 million nationwide. 38.5% of all Asian Americans were born in the U.S., and 33.7% are foreign-born, naturalized citizens. In AALDEFs November 2006 exit poll, respondents were: Chinese American (38%), South Asian American (27%), Korean American (14%), Southeast Asian American (8%), and Filipino American (7%).

Key findings from AALDEFs exit poll, released today in the new report, The Asian American Vote in the 2006 Midterm Elections, include the following:

Asian Americans shared common political interests, even across ethnic lines.
Though Asian Americans are diverse, coming from different countries and speaking different languages and dialects, they exhibit political unity in the electoral arena. In the midterm elections, each Asian ethnic group voted as a bloc for the same top-ballot candidates. Every ethnic group selected Economy/Jobs as the most important issue for the 2008 Presidential candidates to address. On questions of immigration, nearly every major ethnic group shared common concerns about the need for legislative reform.

For Asian Americans, Economy/Jobs was the most important issue to be addressed by the 2008 Presidential candidates.
Overall, the most important issues that Asian Americans wanted the 2008 Presidential candidates to address were the Economy/Jobs (28%), followed by Health Care (19%), the War in Iraq (15%), and Education (15%). Other issues identified by Asian American voters included Immigration (9%), Terrorism/Security (9%), and Moral Issues (4%).

Asian Americans were largely Democratic voters.
Four out of every five (80%) Asian American voters supported the Democratic candidates in the top-ballot races for their respective states: the Senate races in MD, NJ, PA, VA, and WA; the gubernatorial races in IL and MA, and the attorney general race in NY. In all but one of those races, the Democratic candidates were elected with the overwhelming support of the Asian American vote. Most notably, in the Virginia Senate race, three out of four Asian Americans (76%) voted for Democrat Jim Webb, who unseated Republican incumbent George Allen by 0.3% of the total vote. Webbs victory gave the Democrats a majority in the Senate.

Party crossover voting heavily favored Democrats.
Significantly more Asian American Republicans crossed party lines to vote for Democratic candidates, as compared to Asian American Democrats voting for Republican candidates. The majority of Asian Americans not enrolled in a political party also favored the Democratic candidates.

Many Asian Americans have experienced anti-immigrant sentiment.
When AALDEF asked Asian American voters whether they or a family member had been affected by anti-immigrant sentiment, 30% responded Yes. Of those, nearly half (48%) said they had been affected by anti-immigrant sentiments in public locations, 32% said they had been affected at work, and 20% said they had been affected at school. In Michigan, over half of all voters surveyed (51%) said they had been affected by anti-immigrant sentiment. In Virginia, 39% of those surveyed had been affected.

Asian Americans supported legalization of undocumented immigrants and reducing immigration backlogs, while they opposed making being undocumented a crime.
Of those who expressed an opinion, 75% of Asian Americans said they supported creating a way for undocumented immigrants to gain legal status. Nearly nine out of ten (89%) respondents said they favored reducing the amount of time the government takes to process paperwork for immigrants waiting to enter the country. Seventy-two percent (72%) of Asian Americans opposed making being undocumented a crime.

Language assistance and bilingual ballots are needed to preserve access to the vote.
Forty-three percent (43%) of Asian Americans said that they did not speak English well, with only 13% identifying English as their native language. A number of poll sites were mandated to provide bilingual ballots and interpreters under the federal Voting Rights Act; other jurisdictions voluntarily provided language assistance. In the 2006 elections, nearly half of all voters surveyed (46%) needed interpreters to vote, and 38% used translated written materials. The greatest beneficiaries of language assistance were first-time voters, 47% of whom were limited English proficient.

Asian Americans faced many voting barriers.
Asian American voters were unlawfully required to provide identification to vote, mistreated by hostile, rude or poorly trained poll workers, and directed to the wrong poll sites.

AALDEF Staff Attorney Glenn Magpantay presented the results of the 2006 multilingual exit poll. Co-sponsors commenting on the results today were Deepa Iyer, Executive Director of South Asian American Leaders of Tomorrow; Sookyung Oh, Immigrant Rights Project Coordinator of the National Korean American Service & Education Consortium; and Christine Chen, Executive Director of Asian and Pacific Islander American Vote.

A copy of the report is available online at: http://www.aaldef.org/docs/AALDEF2006ExitPollReportMay2007.pdf.

AALDEFs multilingual exit polls reveal vital information about Asian American voting patterns that is often overlooked in mainstream voter surveys. AALDEF has conducted exit polls of Asian American voters in every major election since 1988. Nearly 11,000 Asian American voters in eight states and 3,000 in four states were surveyed in the 2004 and 2002 exit polls, respectively. More than 30 community groups and organizations joined AALDEF to mobilize more than 600 attorneys, law students, and volunteers to conduct the exit poll and to safeguard the voting rights of Asian Americans.

Co-sponsors of AALDEFs May 14 presentation include Asian and Pacific Islander American Vote (APIAVote), Asian Pacific American Institute for Congressional Studies, Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus, Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights, National Korean American Service and Education Consortium (NAKASEC), National Asian Pacific American Bar Association, Organization of Chinese Americans, People for the American Way Foundation, and South Asian American Leaders of Tomorrow (SAALT).

AALDEF Exit Polls
AALDEF has conducted exit polls of Asian American voters in every major election since 1988. Nearly 11,000 Asian American voters in eight states (NY, NJ, MA, MI, IL, PA, RI, VA) were surveyed in AALDEFs 2004 exit poll. Over 3,000 Asian American voters in four states (NY, NJ, MA, MI) were surveyed in 2002, and over 5,000 Asian New Yorkers were surveyed in 2000.

National Co-Sponsors of the Asian American Exit Poll 2006:
Asian Pacific Islander American Vote
Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law
National Asian Pacific American Bar Association
National Korean American Service & Education Consortium
Organization of Chinese Americans
People For the American Way Foundation
South Asian American Leaders of Tomorrow
Shearman & Sterling LLP
Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP

Local Co-Sponsors of the Asian American Exit Poll 2006:
Asian American Bar Association of New York
Asian American Bar Association of the Delaware Valley
Asian American Lawyers Association of Massachusetts
Asian Bar Association of Washington
Asian Pacific American Bar Association of the Greater Washington, DC Area
Asian Pacific American Lawyers Association of New Jersey
Asian Pacific American Legal Resource Center DC
Cambodian Association of Greater Philadelphia
Chinatown Voter Education Alliance NY
Coalition of Asian Pacific Americans of VirginiaConference on Asian Pacific American Leadership DC
Filipino American Human Services, Inc. NY
Greater Boston Legal Services, Asian Outreach Unit
Korean American League for Civic Action NY
Korean American Resource & Cultural Center IL
Korean American Voters Council of NY & NJ
ONE Lowell MA
Pennsylvania Immigration and Citizenship Coalition
Philadelphia Chinatown Development Corporation
YKASECEmpowering the Korean American Community NY
The Sikh Coalition NY
South Asian Youth Action! NY
Vietnamese American Initiative for Development MA
and Asian Pacific American Law Students Association chapters across the country.

The Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF), founded in 1974, is a national organization that protects and promotes the civil rights of Asian Americans. By combining litigation, advocacy, education, and organizing, AALDEF works with Asian American communities across the country to secure human rights for all.