New Findings: Michigan Asian & Arab American Voters Backed Democrats & Immigration Reform in 2012

Tuesday, Apr 16, 2013

Today, the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF) released detailed findings from its nonpartisan multilingual exit poll of 639 Asian and Arab American voters in Michigan in the November 2012 elections, the largest survey of its kind in the nation. The results indicated that Asian and Arab Americans backed President Obama and Democratic candidates by a wide margin, and a majority supported comprehensive immigration reform across party lines.

86% of Asian and Arab Americans polled in Michigan voted for President Obama, compared to 77% of those polled nationally. Of those surveyed, 58% were enrolled in the Democratic party, while only 7% were enrolled in the Republican party, and 33% indicated that they were not enrolled in any party.

The major factors influencing the Asian and Arab American vote in Michigan were economy/jobs (52%), health care (37%), education (34%), and civil rights/immigrants rights (31%). The majority of Asian and Arab Americans (62%) in Michigan supported immigration reform, including a path to citizenship.

"Arab and Asian American voters are a growing part of the Michigan electorate, with more than 1 in 4 surveyed indicating they were first time voters," said Glenn D. Magpantay, Director of AALDEF's Democracy Program. "In Hamtramck, where there is a large Bangladeshi American population, 40% of those surveyed were first-time voters."

Notably, due to its significant Bangladeshi American voting population, in October of 2011 Hamtramck, MI became the first city in the U.S. to be covered under the Language Assistance Provisions (Section 203) of the federal Voting Rights Act for Bangladeshi voters.

The exit poll results are part of AALDEF's 14-state multilingual exit poll of 9,096 Asian and Arab American voters in jurisdictions with large Asian American populations. In Michigan, the exit poll was conducted in eight cities: Ann Arbor, Canton, Dearborn, Detroit, Gaines, Hamtramck, Novi, and Troy. The largest Asian ethnic groups polled were Bangladeshi (34%), Asian Indian (20%), Chinese (18%), Arab (14%), and Korean (3%).

Glenn Magpantay presented the results of the 2012 multilingual exit poll in Detroit, Michigan. Key findings include the following:

  • The majority of Asian and Arab Americans in Michigan voted for President Obama.

86% of Asian and Arab Americans in Michigan voted for Obama. The highest support came from South Asian voters, specifically, 96% of Bangladeshi Americans. The majority of Arab (90%), Asian Indian (88%), and Chinese (77%) Americans also voted for Obama. Support for President Obama was consistent across all categories, including first-time (89%), foreign- (87%) and native-born (84%), limited English proficient (89%) and English proficient (86%) voters, and voters of all age groups. Of the 33% of Asian and Arab Americans in Michigan who were not enrolled in any political party, 83% voted for Obama, while 12% voted for Romney.

  • The majority of Asian and Arab Americans in Michigan supported the Democratic candidate for Congress.

81% voted for Democratic U.S. Senator Debbie Ann Stabenow, and 12% for Republican candidate Pete Hoekstra. Democratic candidates for the U.S. House of Representatives likewise received a vast majority of the Asian and Arab American vote, with 90% voting for John Dingell (D) compared to 8% for Cynthia Kallgren (R), and 97% for Gary Peters (D) compared to 2% for John Hauler (R). In addition, 68% of Asian and Arab Americans surveyed voted for Syed Taj (D), although Kerry Bentivolio (R) won by 51% of the overall vote.

  • A majority of Asian and Arab Americans favored comprehensive immigration reform.

62% of Asian and Arab Americans in Michigan supported immigration reform, including a path to citizenship, with the highest support from Bangladeshi (72%) and Arab American (61%) voters. 66% of Democrats, 54% of Republicans, and 55% not enrolled in any political party supported immigration reform. In the race for U.S. Senate, 64% of those who voted for Democratic Senator Debbie Ann Stabenow supported immigration reform. In the race for U.S. House of Representatives, 73% of those who voted for Democrat Gary Peters and 64% of those who voted for Democrat John Dingell supported immigration reform.

  • Voting barriers persisted.

Voters were asked if they encountered any voting problems. Below are the numbers of complaints:
26 were required to prove their U.S. citizenship.
12 reported that their names were missing or had errors.
10 were required to vote by provisional ballot.
11 voters reported that poll workers were uninformed.
8 voters reported that poll workers were rude or hostile.
11 voters reported that no interpreters or translations were available when needed.
5 voters were directed to the wrong poll site or wrong voting machine/table within a site.


About the Asian American Exit Poll:
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. 

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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