February 11th, 2008
06:07 PM ET

The Asian-American primary vote: What’s behind the numbers

In our California exit polling on Super Tuesday, Hillary Clinton received 71 percent of Asian-American support in the Democratic primary; Barack Obama only 25 percent. That’s an almost three-to-one margin that frankly caught many of us off guard.


Stories like this are challenging. Asian-Americans are certainly not a monolithic group. Many have been here for generations; others have just arrived in the United States. They are from many different countries; In the U.S., there are more than a million people with roots in each of these countries: China, the Phillipines, India, Korea, Japan, and Vietnam.

With that in mind, we talked with Asian-Americans in Seattle’s Chinatown and other parts of the city. We picked Seattle because Washington caucuses were held last week, and the state has one of the largest Asian-American populations in the country. And what we found after talking to scores of people was that their responses backed up our exit polling. But why?

Political scientists of different stripes tell us many Asian-Americans, as well as Latinos who have arrived here in recent decades, are often more comfortable with what is familiar - just like many other Americans. Many of these recent arrivals fared well and remember the Clinton White House fondly. And that is a major reason Hillary Clinton has done well in this polling.

In addition, we heard something from a small minority of this minority; that they are “comfortable” with a Caucasian politician. This is NOT unique to Asian-Americans. We hear similar sentiments from people in all ethnic groups. But it is something that could have affected a portion of this vote.

There are some who have blogged on the Internet that, in reporting a story on all this for AC360 last Friday, I was trying to infer that Asian-Americans are fearful of change or African-Americans. Some seem to feel that I am being disrespectful. I would never do that. Unfortunately, there is a lack of political coverage when it comes to the Asian-American vote, a constituency that is growing more influential in this country as the years go on. I hope that as we do more stories on this constituency, there is less controversy about stories of this type. In that spirit, we will be updating this story in a special AC360 program we are doing this Friday night called “Uncovering America: Race, Gender, and Politics.” We hope you will watch.

-Gary Tuchman, 360 Correspondent

Filed under: Gary Tuchman • Raw Politics
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