WASHINGTON—Around half of Asian Americans relied on ethnic media for news during the last election in which the growing community voted overwhelmingly for President Barack Obama, a study said Thursday.
Massive support by minorities played a vital role in Obama’s re-election on November 6. Asian Americans made up 3.4 percent of the electorate and could play a greater future role as they form the fastest expanding racial group.
The Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund, releasing detailed findings from its exit polls, found that 48 percent of Asian Americans considered ethnic media, led by television, to be their prime news source.
Asian Americans of Korean, Vietnamese and Chinese heritage are most likely to consider vernacular-language ethnic media their main news source. The figure dwindles for Indian and Filipino Americans for whom fluent English is the norm.
The campaigns of Obama and his Republican challenger Mitt Romney both courted ethnic media during the election, with surrogates making appearances in community hubs in competitive states such as Virginia.
The fund led a multilingual survey of 9,096 Asian American voters across 14 states on election day, hoping to reveal trends that go unnoticed in exit polls for mainstream media.
The detailed findings found that 77 percent of Asian Americans voted for Obama, slightly higher than earlier projections and capping a major shift toward his Democratic Party since the 1990s.
More than half of Asian American voters listed the economy as an important issue in deciding their vote and 35 named health care, Obama’s signature legislative achievement in his first term.
Twenty-six percent of Asian Americans listed civil rights and immigrant rights as an important factor. A strong majority voiced support for reforms that would include a path to citizenship for the estimated 11.5 undocumented residents in the United States.
Even among Asian Americans who voted for Romney, 47 percent supported immigration reform, more than the percentage opposed, the poll found.
“Every demographic breakout… (has) very, very strong support for comprehensive immigration reform with a path to citizenship,” said Glenn Magpantay, director of the democracy program at the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund.
Obama has made immigration reform a key priority for his second term. Some Republicans have shown more enthusiasm on the issue since the election, in which the party also lost by a wide margin among Hispanics.
The survey showed that a massive 96 percent of Bangladeshi Americans voted for Obama, as did 91 percent of Pakistani Americans.
Americans of Indian and Chinese descent voted for Obama at rates of more than 80 percent. Vietnamese Americans were the only group that tilted to Romney, with 54 percent voting for the Republican.
Vietnamese Americans have historically voted Republican, owing partly to the party’s hard line against communism, but younger members of the community have voted Democratic in growing numbers.
In one closely watched race, 70 percent of Asian Americans voted in Virginia’s Senate race for Democrat Tim Kaine, well outpacing the 53 percent he won overall.
Both parties had heavily courted Asian Americans in the race. Kaine was running against former Republican star George Allen, who came under fire in 2006 for using an ethnic slur to belittle an Indian American volunteer for his rival.
In Massachusetts, 79 percent of Asian Americans supported Democrat Elizabeth Warren, who defeated Republican senator Scott Brown by 53 percent overall.