New Findings: Asian American Voters in PA Showed Particularly Strong Support for Democrats

Monday, May 13, 2013

Last night, the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF) released detailed findings from its nonpartisan multilingual exit poll of 253 Asian American voters in Pennsylvania in the November 2012 elections. The results indicated that Asian Americans strongly backed Democratic candidates for President and Congress, and the majority supported immigration reform, including a path to citizenship for undocumented people.

The exit poll results are part of AALDEF's 14-state multilingual exit poll of 9,096 Asian American voters in jurisdictions with large Asian American populations. In Pennsylvania, the exit poll was conducted in Philadelphia and Upper Darby.

89% of Asian Americans polled in Pennsylvania voted for President Obama, compared to 77% of those polled nationally. Of those surveyed, 68% were enrolled in the Democratic Party, while only 10% were enrolled in the Republican Party. 22% indicated that they were not enrolled in any party.

"Strong support for issues including immigration reform led Asian American voters polled in Philadelphia and Upper Darby to cast the ballot for President Obama and Democratic candidates at some of the highest levels we've seen across the nation," said Glenn D. Magpantay, AALDEF Democracy Program Director.

The major factors influencing the Asian American vote in Pennsylvania were health care (44%), economy/jobs (41%), education (23%), and civil rights/immigrants rights (23%). The majority of Asian Americans (69%) in Pennsylvania supported immigration reform, including a path to citizenship.

The largest Asian ethnic groups in the Pennsylvania exit poll were Chinese (35%), Vietnamese (24%), Cambodian (12%), and Asian Indian (6%).  More than 1 in 4 (28%) were first-time voters.

AALDEF's Glenn Magpantay presented the results of the 2012 multilingual exit poll at the Philadelphia Chinatown Development Corporation. View the presentation >

Key findings include:

  • Asian Americans are a growing portion of the Pennsylvania electorate.

In the 2012 election, 28% of Asian Americans were first time voters. Of the Asian American voters surveyed, more than 1 in 4 (26%) in Upper Darby, and more than 1 in 4 (28%) in Philadelphia were first-time voters.

  • The majority of Asian Americans in Pennsylvania voted for President Obama.

Asian Americans polled in Pennsylvania voted for Obama at 89%, the highest rate of all the states surveyed. The highest support came from 96% of Chinese, 78% of Cambodian, and 77% of Vietnamese American voters. Support for President Obama was consistent across all categories, including first-time (93%), foreign- (90%) and native-born (91%), limited English proficient (88%) and English proficient (91%) voters, and voters of all age groups.

  • The majority of Asian Americans in Pennsylvania voted for the Democratic congressional candidate.

In the race for U.S. Senate, the majority of Asian Americans (76%) voted for Democrat Bob Casey. In the race for U.S. House of Representatives, 92% of Asian Americans in the first congressional district voted for Democrat Bob Brady. 80% of Asian Americans in the second congressional district voted for Democrat Chaka Fattah.

  • Asian Americans in Pennsylvania have high levels of limited English proficiency.

53% of Asian Americans in Pennsylvania spoke English less than "very well," compared to 37% of all Asian Americans nationally. Chinese Americans had the highest rate of limited English proficiency at 70%, followed by 64% of Vietnamese Americans.

  • A majority of Asian Americans favored comprehensive immigration reform.

69% of Asian Americans in Pennsylvania supported immigration reform, including a path to citizenship, with the highest support from 81% of Cambodian, 72% of Vietnamese, and 56% of Chinese American voters. 69% of those who voted for President Obama supported immigration reform, and 74% of those who voted for Romney supported immigration reform. 78% of those enrolled in the Democratic Party, 75% of those enrolled in the Republican Party, and 39% not enrolled in any political party supported immigration reform.

  • Voting barriers persisted.

Voters were asked if they encountered any voting problems:

47 voters were wrongfully required to show identification.
10 voters indicated that their names were missing or had errors in the list of voters at poll sites.
8 voters were required to prove their U.S. citizenship.
6 voters had to vote by provisional ballot.
5 voters indicated that no interpreters or translations were available when they needed the help.
3 voters were directed to the wrong poll site or voting machine/table within a site.
2 voters indicated that poll workers did not know what to do.
1 voter indicated that poll workers were hostile.

About the Exit Poll:

AALDEF's 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. In 2012, more than 100 community groups and organizations joined AALDEF to mobilize over 800 attorneys, law students, and volunteers to conduct the exit poll and to safeguard the voting rights of Asian Americans. A list of co-sponsoring organizations and law firms follows below. 


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.

Ujala Sehgal
212.966.5932 x.217

2012 AALDEF ASIAN AMERICAN EXIT POLL - Co-Sponsoring Organizations and Law Firms

National Co-Sponsors

Alliance of South Asian American Labor
Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance
Common Cause
Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law
National Asian Pacific American Bar Association
Nat'l Coalition of Asian Pac. Amer. Comm. Dev.
Nat'l Korean Amer. Service & Education Consortium
National Queer Asian Pacific Islander Alliance
North American South Asian Bar Association
OCA (formerly Organization of Chinese Americans)
South Asian Americans Leading Together

Local Co-Sponsors

APALA - Nevada
APIA Vote - Michigan
Asian American Society of Central Virginia
Boat People SOS Delaware Valley - PA
Cambodian Association of Greater Philadelphia
Center for Pan Asian Community Services - GA
Chhaya CDC - NY
Chinese-American Planning Council - NY
Chinese Community Federation of Atlanta
Chinese Progressive Association - MA
Coalition of Asian Pacific Americans of Virginia
East Coast Asian American Student Union
Gay Asian and Pacific Islander Men of New York
Hunter College/CUNY, Asian Am. Studies Prog - NY
Korean American Civic Empowerment of NY/NJ
Korean American Resource and Cultural Center - IL
MinKwon Center for Community Action - NY
NAAAP - New York
NAAAP - Philadelphia
NANAY - FL                         
NAPAWF - New York City
OCA: Georgia
OCA: Greater Houston
OCA: Greater Philadelphia
OCA: Greater Washington DC
OCA: Northern Virginia
OCA: South Florida
Pace University, ACE House - NY
Pennsylvania Immigration and Citizenship Coalition
Philadelphia Chinatown Development Corporation
Princeton Asian American Students Association - NJ
South Asian Lesbian & Gay Association of New York
U. California San Diego, Lambda Phi Epsilon
U. Maryland, College Park, Asian Amer. Studies Prog.
U. Massachusetts Boston, Asian Amer. Studies Prog.
Viet. Amer. Young Leaders Assoc. of New Orleans

Legal Co-Sponsors

Asian American Bar Association of Houston
Asian American Bar Association of New York
Asian American Lawyers Assoc. of Massachusetts
Asian American Legal Advocacy Center of Georgia
Asian Bar Association of Las Vegas - NV
Asian Pacific American Bar Assoc. of Wash., DC
Asian Pacific American Bar Assoc. of Pennsylvania
Asian Pacific American Bar Assoc. of South Florida
Asian Pacific American Lawyers Association of NJ   
Asian Pacific American Legal Resource Center - DC
Boston University School of Law, APALSA - MA
Brooklyn Law School, APALSA - NY
Columbia Law School, APALSA - NY
Filipino Amer. Legal Defense & Educ. Fund, Inc. - NY
Georgetown Law, APALSA - DC
Georgia Asian Pacific American Bar Association
Greater Boston Legal Services: Asian Outreach Unit
Harvard Law School, APALSA - MA
Korean Amer. Bar Assoc. of the Washington DC Area
Korean American Lawyers Association of Greater NY
Louisiana Asian Pacific American Bar Association
Muslim American Bar Association of New York
New England School of Law, APALSA - MA
Pace Law School, Public Interest Law Center - NY
Rutgers School of Law-Newark, APALSA - NJ
South Asian Bar Association of New York
South Asian Bar Association of Washington, DC
Suffolk U. Law Rappaport Ctr. Law and Public Serv.
University of Nevada, Las Vegas, APALSA
U. Penn. Law, Public Interest Office and APALSA

Law Firm Co-Sponsors

Alston & Bird LLP
Ballard Spahr LLP
Crowell & Moring LLP
Debevoise & Plimpton LLP
Duane Morris LLP
Edwards Wildman Palmer LLP
Finnegan, Henderson, Farabow, Garrett & Dunner, LLP
Fowler White Boggs
Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson LLP
Hogan Lovells
K&L Gates LLP
Kaye Scholer LLP
Kelley Drye & Warren LLP
McCarter & English LLP
Morrison & Foerster LLP
Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP
Paul Hastings LLP
Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP
Pepper Hamilton LLP
Proskauer Rose LLP
Ropes & Gray LLP
Shearman & Sterling LLP
Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP
Sutherland Asbill & Brennan LLP
Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP
White & Case LLP


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