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Originally published Wednesday, September 26, 2012 at 8:15 PM

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Asian-American voters a force in November election

Asian-American voters could have more clout this election.

Seattle Times staff columnist

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A new survey suggests Asian Americans could play a more important role in this fall's presidential election.

Asian Americans have been a factor in Washington state for some time now, but the country as a whole is just now feeling the surge in numbers created by decades of high immigration.

In 1965 Asian Americans were less than 1 percent of the national population. That year, racially discriminatory immigration laws were changed.

By 2011 Asian Americans reached 5.8 percent of the U.S. population and the numbers continue to grow rapidly.

The infusion of new people has contributed to the country in business, education, culture and now it's poised to have a political impact.

The 2012 National Asian-American Survey finds that the majority of Asian Americans who are likely to vote in November favor Barack Obama, but about 32 percent of those potential voters were still undecided after the party conventions, and they could affect the outcome in some contested states.

The report is the work of professors at the University of California, Riverside, and the University of California, Berkeley. It's based on more than 3,300 interviews focused on several key issues.

Asked about their personal financial situations and the effects of the recession, 59 percent said their financial situation was the same as it was a year ago.

Indian Americans and Japanese Americans were most likely to be doing the same, while a third of Hmong reported doing worse.

Five percent of the people surveyed had experienced a foreclosure, and 14 percent had lost a job since 2008.

Forty-nine percent of Asian Americans support the Affordable Care Act. A majority, 78 percent of Asian Americans, support Affirmative Action.

The report said an estimated 1 million undocumented Asian Americans live in the United States. The surveyed citizens support a path to citizenship (58 percent), but were less supportive of allowing undocumented residents to pay in-state tuition (47 percent) or get driver's licenses (47 percent).

Seventy percent of Asian Americans consider themselves environmentalists. The U.S. average is 41 percent.

Among Asian Americans, 65 percent support raising taxes on high earners to help reduce the budget deficit, the same as for the general population. Thirty-five percent favor using spending cuts alone to cut the deficit.

The survey asked people where they get their information. Television, at 67 percent, was followed by the Internet, 42 percent; newspapers, 26 percent; radio, 11 percent; and magazines, 3 percent.

Of course, the many ethnic groups we lump together as Asian Americans are diverse in their backgrounds and experiences. The researchers took that into account in their survey of people from 10 ethnic groups. The detailed results are available online at naasurvey.com.

Indian Americans strongly support President Obama (68 percent) while Mitt Romney didn't get majority support from any group, but is favored by 39 percent of Samoans and 38 percent of Filipinos.

The overall Asian-American split among likely voters favored President Obama 43 percent to 24 percent for Romney.

That divide leaves plenty of room for the significant percentage of undecided voters to make a difference in the race.

Not only are there a lot of undecideds, but a majority of Asian Americans, 51 percent, belong to neither party.

Having such a high percentage of votes up for grabs can translate into political power.

Nothing I saw in the numbers suggested Asian Americans were going to skew politics one direction or another. Their views are too diverse for that.

But maybe having to think about another group will be a reminder to politicians that no voters should be taken for granted.

Jerry Large's column appears Monday and Thursday. Reach him at 206-464-3346 or jlarge@seattletimes.com.

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About Jerry Large

I try to write about the intersections of everyday life and big issues. I like to invite readers to think a little differently. The topics I choose represent the things in which I take an interest, and I try to deal with them the way most folks would, sometimes seriously, sometimes with a sense of humor. My column runs Mondays and Thursdays.
jlarge@seattletimes.com | 206-464-3346

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