Ethnic voters soon to be majority in California
- State’s voter rolls increased by 3 million in 20 years; mostly ethnic voters
- Asian Americans are potential swing vote
LOS ANGELES — In ten years, the ethnic population of California will make up the majority voters in the state, according to Mark DiCamillo, director of The Field Poll, a research group that has acquired a national reputation as a consistently reliable and authoritative source of public opinion trends in California.
DiCamillo headed a panel presentation during an Ethnic News Briefing October 17 sponsored by the New America Media at the Japanese American Cultural Community Center here.
Another panelist, Karthick Ramakrishnan, professor of political science at University of California Riverside backed the Field projection, stating, “Whites will lose its majority status in a decade.”
Asian swing vote
He also said a high proportion of Asian voters are undecided, three times higher than the California average. “They are the potential ‘swing’ vote.”
Di Camillo underlined the significant impact of ethnic voters, particularly Asians, in the last elections including presidential and gubernatorial races. The Field Poll survey produced the following results:
- During the past 20 years California’s registered voter rolls have increased by nearly three million, all of it coming from the state’s ethnic voter populations.
- The number of Asian American registered voters also increased by nearly 1 million, growing from 5 percent to 10 percent of the overall electorate.
- Over this period, the number of registered voters who are Latino increased by 1.9 million from a 15 percent to 24 percent of the total electorate.
Karthick and Di Camillo reported that in California, Obama won with Asian and black votes. Karthick further stated that “Asians are increasing their numbers in the Democratic Party; they show reliance on government providing services; are opposed to automatic cutting government spending. Sixty two percent of Asians in survey support increase in taxes and to tend to favor higher government spending as a safety net.”
Karthick referred to a 2012 study conducted jointly by the National Asian American Survey (NAA), Asian American Justice Center, Asian and Pacific Islander American Vote, showing the majority of Asian voters is foreign-born, perhaps explaining why they have a lower turn out during elections.
“They have to learn the political system and thus, ethnic media has a large role to this awareness-building,” he said. Filipino voters are “the most expensive to survey because of the overlap between their and Latinos” surnames, he added.
The NAA report sampled a focus Asian American and Pacific Islander voters in 2012. It was the only voter survey conducted in nine Asian languages, English, and Spanish. A total of 6,609 interviews were completed in November and December 2012. The following are significant findings in this report:
- About 3.85 million Asian American and Pacific Islander votes were cast—approximately 2.67 million for Obama and 1.18 million for Mitt Romney.
- Without Asian American and Pacific Islander support, Obama’s popular-vote margin of victory would have been 3.5 million. Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders contributed a net of 1.5 million votes to Obama’s popular-vote margin of victory.
- Nearly half of Asian American and Pacific Islander registered voters identify as independent or undecided.
According to the NAA Survey the “Asian American and Pacific Islander voting blocs are truly up for grabs. More than two-thirds of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders voted for President Obama. Obama won every segment of the Asian American and Pacific Islander populations, including Vietnamese and Filipinos, who have historically voted more Republican.”
No strong party identification
The study further stated that although overall political engagement increased, Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders do not strongly identify with any party.
“They vote for candidates who support and promote progress on issues that matter to their families and communities.”
DiCamillo stated that the ethnic voters polled thought the government was going in a “positive direction.” Field Poll survey was conducted among 1,000 of the 17 million registered voters.
Sandy Close, Executive Director of NAM exhorted the ethnic news media to increase their coverage on domestic politics. “Make voter registration and elections “sexy” so as to attract readers to vote for issues that impact their interests”.
One of the important initiatives for California cited by Close, is Proposition 147, which would change the sentencing for some of the lowest-level petty crimes from felony to misdemeanors, to unclog prisons and direct financial savings in to crime prevention and rehabilitation programs. Milena Blake, representative on Yes on Prop 47, said the measure addresses California’s need for criminal justice reform.
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