With their candidate, US President Barack Obama, locked in a tight race against Republican nominee Mitt Romney, Democrats are counting on Asian-American voters to push them to victory in November, the party’s national chairwoman said Monday.
“We know the AAPI vote is going to be crucial in battleground states,” Debbie Wasserman Schultz told an audience party activists from the Asian-American and Pacific Islander community on Monday before the start of the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, North Carolina.
In swing states such as Virginia, Nevada, Pennsylvania and her home of Florida, any margin of victory, if it comes, will be small, Wasserman Schultz said in urging the grassroots Democrats to work hard for every vote.
“So just like in 2008 in those states, the turnout among AAPIs is going to be critical. Making sure we do everything we can to deploy and turn out that vote is going to be essential to Barack Obama’s victory,” the Democratic National Committee chairwoman said. Wasserman Schultz also serves Florida’s 20th Congressional District in the US House of Representatives.
Americans of Asian and Pacific Islander descent are among the fastest-growing demographic groups in the US, consisting of about 16.6 million people, or 5.4 percent of the country’s population, according to the most recent census.
By 2050, this group is expected to make up 9.7 percent of the US population with over 40 million people.
Asian-Americans are often described as the best-educated and highest-income minority in the US, and in recent years their community has become more engaged in national politics. About 100 Asian-American delegates attended the 2008 Democratic convention in Denver at which Obama was first nominated. For this year’s DNC, the number of attendees exceeds 300, according to convention organizers.
Democrats’ efforts to reach out to this increasingly important voting bloc appear to be paying off.
Four years ago, 62 percent of Asian-American voters said they had cast ballots for Obama, according to a Pew Research Center poll. Earlier this year, a Pew poll showed found that over 50 percent of Asian-American voters identify themselves as Democrats while about 30 percent are Republicans.
Wasserman Schultz said her party appeals to Asian-American and Pacific Islanders due to its shared values with the community and commitment to diversity.
This year, 14 of the 17 AAPI candidates running for Congress this year are Democrats, she pointed out.
Jay Chen, whose parents immigrated to the US from Taiwan and who is a candidate for California’s 39th Congressional District, told China Daily after Monday’s speech that he believes Asian-Americans will vote for Obama again.
“The Democratic Party is always better toward minority issues and immigration issues, accommodating their linguistic needs. That’s why more Asian-Americans gravitate toward it,” he said.
Even in some congressional districts, such as Chen’s in the Los Angeles area, where more Asian-Americans are registered as Republicans than Democrats, “we know that most of the Asians will still vote for Obama,” he said.
“Asians may register one way but they will always vote for whom they think is best, they don’t just follow party line,” added the Democratic challenger to Representative Ed Royce, a Republican who is seeking his fifth House term.
The biggest challenge is to make sure members of the community are registered to vote, Chen said. “In my race, there are a lot of voters of my parents’ generation who are very excited to see me running because when they started out, they just wanted to get a job. Now they see how important it is to get involved in politics.”