New Findings: Asian American Vote in 2012 Varied by Ethnic Group and Geographic Location

Thursday, Jan 17, 2013

AALDEF's Multilingual Exit Poll of 9,096 Asian Americans in 14 States Reveals Voting Preferences, Party Affiliation, Key Issues of Concern, and Need for Language Assistance

January 17, 2013 -- Today, the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF) released detailed findings from its nonpartisan multilingual exit poll of 9,096 Asian American voters in the November 2012 Presidential Elections, the largest survey of its kind in the nation. The results indicated that Asian Americans vary in political beliefs and on policies across ethnic lines and by geographic location.

While three-quarters (77%) of Asian Americans polled voted for Barack Obama for President, as many as 96% of Bangladeshi Americans voted for Obama, compared to 44% of Vietnamese Americans. Support for policies including immigration reform also varied by ethnic group.

In addition, while Asian Americans in the Northeast voted for Obama at high levels (89% in PA and 86% in NY), as few as 16% of Asian Americans polled in Louisiana voted for Obama.

"Asian Americans are a diverse community with varying social, political, and economic backgrounds," said AALDEF Executive Director Margaret Fung. "The AALDEF Exit Poll provides much needed data on Asian American voting trends, especially as our community's political influence continues to grow."  

AALDEF, a 39-year old New York-based national organization, polled Asian American voters in 37 cities across 14 states on Election Day:  New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Maryland, Michigan, Illinois, Georgia, Louisiana, Florida, Texas, Nevada, California, and Washington, D.C.

The largest Asian ethnic groups in the exit poll were Chinese (31%), Asian Indian (13%), Bangladeshi (12%), Vietnamese (12%), Korean (11%), Filipino (9%), Pakistani (3%), Arab (2%), Indo-Caribbean (1%), and Cambodian (1%).

Glenn Magpantay, AALDEF Democracy Program Director, presented the results of the 2012 multilingual exit poll in Washington, DC.


Key findings presented on "The Asian American Vote in the 2012 Presidential Election" include the following:

  • There is a range of Asian American political leanings across ethnic lines.

In the Presidential Election, three-quarters (77%) of Asian Americans polled voted for Barack Obama for President and 21% voted for Mitt Romney. Support for each candidate varied by ethnic group, with a high of 54% of Vietnamese Americans voting for Romney, compared to 3% of Bangladeshi Americans.

The percentage of Asian Americans who voted for Obama by ethnic group are as follows (from highest to lowest): Bangladeshi American (96%); Pakistani American (91%); Indian American (84%); Chinese American (81%); Korean American (78%); Filipino American (65%); and Vietnamese American (44%).

  • There is a range of Asian American political leanings by geographic location.

89% of Asian Americans polled in Pennsylvania, and 86% of Asian Americans polled at sites in both New York and Michigan, voted for Obama, However, Obama received 57% of the Asian American vote at sites polled in Texas and only 16% at sites in Louisiana.

  • Asian Americans under 40 were more likely to have favored Obama.

Only 10% of Asian Americans under 30 voted for Romney, compared to 16% of Asian Americans between 30-39; 26% of Asian Americans between 40-49; 26% between 50-59%; and 27% between 60-69.

  • Asian Americans are a growing segment of the electorate, with a large proportion of first-time voters and foreign-born naturalized U.S. citizens.

Nearly four out of five (79%) of Asian Americans polled were foreign-born naturalized U.S. citizens. 10% became citizens within the past 2 years; 45% became citizens more than 10 years ago. More than a quarter (27%) of those polled said that they voted for the first time in the 2012 Presidential Elections.

  • Almost two-thirds of Asian Americans favored comprehensive immigration reform, with a range of support by ethnic group.

Overall among the respondents, 34% of Asian Americans "Strongly support" and 31% "Support" comprehensive immigration, including a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. Among ethnic groups, there were varied levels of support for immigration reform, with a high of 78% of Bangladeshi Americans and Pakistani Americans, and a low of 49% of Vietnamese Americans.

  • Language assistance and bilingual ballots are needed to preserve access to the vote.

More than one-third (37%) of Asian American voters polled were limited English proficient (LEP), defined as speaking English "less than very well." One out of five (18%) respondents identified English as their native language.

Among the different Asian ethnic groups polled, Korean Americans had the highest concentration of LEP voters, with more than half (67%) identifying themselves as LEP, followed by Vietnamese American (59%), Chinese American (55%), and Bangladeshi American voters (45%). Several poll sites where the exit poll was conducted were mandated to provide bilingual ballots and interpreters under the federal Voting Rights Act; other jurisdictions voluntarily provided language assistance. 

22% preferred voting with the assistance of an interpreter or/and translated voting materials. 

  • Voting barriers persisted.

Voters were asked if they encountered any voting problems. Below are the number of complaints:

249 were required to prove their U.S. citizenship.

307 said that their names were missing or had errors in the list of voters at poll sites.            

215 had to vote by provisional ballot.

165 voters said that poll workers did not know what to do.

136 voters said that poll workers were rude or hostile.

183 voters said that no interpreters or translations were available when they needed their help.

105 were directed to the wrong poll site or voting machine/table within a site.

  • Among Asian Americans overall, voting in the Congressional Elections mirrored the Presidential Elections.

In 24 of the 28 Congressional districts where the exit poll was conducted, a majority of Asian Americans supported Democratic candidates.  For the U.S. Senate, 74% of Asian Americans overall voted for the Democratic candidate and 18% voted for the Republican candidate. For the U.S. House of Representatives, 73% voted for the Democratic candidate and 17% voted for the Republican candidate.


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 the 2008 Presidential Election, AALDEF surveyed 16,665 Asian American voters in eleven states. 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, Communications Coordinator

Glenn Magpantay, Democracy Prog. Dir.



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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