Asian-Illinoisan voters an untapped bloc

Survey suggests political parties fail to reach out to fast-growing population.

July 17, 2012

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(Flickr/Jocelyn Gonzalez)
A new poll shows that Asian-American voters in Illinois are eager to vote in the November elections, but the two major political parties are not reaching out to them.

Democratic and Republican political candidates are not tapping into the voting power of one of Illinois’ fastest-growing populations, according to a new poll of Asian-American political attitudes. The findings are part of a national survey by by Lake Research Partners on behalf of APIAVote and the Asian American Justice Center. The survey took a deeper look at a handful of states, including Illinois, where 130 Asian-American voters were interviewed in April.

“Asian-American voters are really quite solidly behind the Democratic party,” said David Mermin, who headed the poll. “ In particular, they think the Democrats do better than Republicans at treating all Americans fairly and equally.”

But Mermin said respondents in Illinois were more open to Republican candidates when it came to Congressional elections. “While Democrats have a clear advantage with these voters, there is a substantial undecided vote as well,” Mermin said. The poll found that nearly a quarter of those surveyed in Illinois said they would be undecided between a Republican candidate and a Democratic candidate if a Congressional election were to be held today.

”It suggests a need to reach out and clarify to these voters what the differences are for candidates who want to win their votes,” Mermin concluded.

But Mermin said the findings also suggest that both parties lag when it comes to Asian-American outreach. About two-thirds of those surveyed said they had not gotten significant contact from the Democratic party within the last two years. “And on the Republican side, it’s up to 75 percent not getting substantial contact,” said Mermin. “The Republicans have really fallen short in their effort to communicate with these voters. The Democrats have, too. They both have a lot of room to grow.”

Asian-Americans were less than 5 percent of Illinois’ population in the 2010 Census, making them the fourth-largest racial or ethnic group. But of those, it was the fastest-growing, showing a 39 percent increase from a decade before. The growth has made them particularly significant in a couple of districts with redrawn borders, namely the 8th Congressional district and the 10th Congressional district.

“The political leaders who embed a strategy to engage the Asian-American communities as part of their core strategy will be rewarded by the margin of victory they deserve,” warned Mee Moua, president of the Asian American Justice Center. “And those who ignore us do so at their own peril.”