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The Race to the White House

Asian Voters Tilt to Kerry

But the first national poll during a presidential election of a growing segment of the U.S. electorate finds one in five are undecided.

September 15, 2004|Emma Schwartz | Times Staff Writer

WASHINGTON — Asian American voters favor Democratic candidate John F. Kerry over President Bush, a new poll shows, although a significant number -- one in five -- is undecided.

And although these voters largely supported the Democrats in the 2000 presidential contest, the poll suggests that the Democratic edge has thinned. Kerry has a 7 percentage point lead over Bush among Asian American voters, half of what Al Gore had over Bush among that group in 2000.

The poll -- the first national survey of Asian American voters in a presidential election -- spotlights a small but growing segment of the American electorate.

The study, found that Asian American voters favored Kerry over Bush by 43% to 36%, with 20% undecided. The survey was conducted in nine languages just before the Republican National Convention by the Tarrance Group, Bendixen & Associates and New California Media.

"Traditionally, neither party has spent much effort reaching out to Asian Americans.... As a result I think you have a very large untapped population," said David Lee, executive director of the Chinese American Voters Education Committee, which helped support the poll.

More than half of the 6 million eligible Asian American voters are expected to register to vote in the presidential election, up by almost 1 million from the 2.4 million registered in 2000.

A largely immigrant-based population, Asian Americans are still "undergoing a process of political acculturation" with the American system, said Don T. Nakanishi, director of the UCLA Asian American Studies Center.

Indeed, about one-third of the registered voters surveyed said their vote in this year's election would be their first.

About 22% of the likely Asian American voters -- 525,000 -- live in battleground states, and their numbers have the potential to shift the election in Florida (86,000 likely voters), Washington (84,000 likely voters) and Michigan (65,000 likely voters), among others.

But some analysts are skeptical about the Asian American community's reach on the national electoral stage. Because they are heavily concentrated in non-swing states, including California and New York, their broad political influence remains small, Nakanishi said.

The Asian American vote remains fractured, split along key issues, age and ethnicity , the poll found.

Chinese, South Asian and Japanese Americans tended to weigh more heavily toward Kerry while Vietnamese, Korean and Filipino Americans were more in favor of Bush.

The economy was the key issue for these voters, the poll found. About 47% of those surveyed said jobs and the economy were the single biggest issue for the next president. Only 22% picked Iraq or terrorism.

The poll surveyed 1,004 registered voters across Asian American communities in 47 states during the 10 days leading up to the GOP convention. Its overall margin of error was 3%, although it was as high as 9% among some subsets of Asian Americans.

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