US Presidential Election 2012

America's rising Asia vote 'sealed deal' for Barack Obama

Poll reveals 72 per cent of Asian Americans reelected the President, citing his Obamacare

PUBLISHED : Friday, 09 November, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 09 November, 2012, 3:27am

US President Barack Obama enjoyed soaring support from Asian Americans to win another term, a post-election survey revealed, as voters elected Congress's first Hindu lawmaker.

A poll conducted for community groups found 72 per cent of Asian Americans voted for Obama on Tuesday, a gain from the two-thirds support he won in 2008. It is part of a major shift toward the Democrats by this group over the past 20 years.

While small in total, Asian Americans are the fastest growing racial group in the United States and comprised 3.4 per cent of the electorate on Tuesday, up from 2.7 per cent four years ago.

Obama, the first African American president, also enjoyed overwhelming backing from black and Hispanic groups, helping him offset a tilt by white voters toward his Republican rival Mitt Romney.

"It is without question that these three minority groups combined provided the margin of victory for Obama nationally but also in some key states," said Matt Barreto, founding principal of the Latino Decisions research firm that carried out the survey.

The survey's results on Asian American support for Obama found the top issue for this community was the economy.

One factor behind support for Obama was his signature legislative achievement, with 60 per cent of Asian Americans saying the government had played a role in ensuring access to health care.

At least five Americans of Asian or Pacific Island descent, all Democrats, won new seats in Congress. In Hawaii, 31-year-old Tulsi Gabbard was elected as the first Hindu member of Congress.

Gabbard, who served in combat in Iraq, is of Samoan descent and her mother embraced the Gaudiya Vaishnava tradition.

"That Gabbard won while proudly espousing her Hinduism and voicing a willingness to be a strong voice for Hindu Americans brings over two million Americans into the political landscape for the first time," said Aseem Shukla, co-founder of the Hindu American Foundation.

Mazie Hirono, who held the seat Gabbard won, was elected to the Senate. She will be the first Asian American woman senator, the first who is Buddhist and the first who was born in Japan.

"Congress is slowly, but surely, starting to better represent America," said Representative Mike Honda, whose California district is the first on the US mainland to have an Asian American majority.

In the Chicago suburbs, Tammy Duckworth, a Thai-born war veteran who lost most of her two legs in Iraq, beat controversial Republican congressman Joe Walsh.

Walsh is a hawkish supporter of Israel and campaigned for the United States to issue a visa to Narendra Modi, the chief minister of Gujarat who is shunned in Washington due to anti-Muslim riots in the Indian state in 2002.

In California, Democrat Mark Takano was elected as the first non-white member of Congress who is openly gay. Grace Meng became New York City's first Asian American member of Congress.

"It feels great. I'm proud to be the first Asian, I'm proud to be a woman," the Taiwanese American lawyer told NY1 television station. Eight lawmakers of Asian American or Pacific Island descent were re-elected.

But Asian Americans also suffered a series of defeats. In Detroit's suburbs, Indian-born physician Syed Taj lost to conservative Kerry Bentivolio, a reindeer farmer and Santa Claus impersonator.

"While Barack Obama's narrative attracted Asian American voters, Mitt Romney missed an enormous opportunity to offer a direct appeal to this group," said Lisa Hasegawa, executive director of the National Coalition for Asian Pacific American Community Development.

Her group and the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund organised the poll, which surveyed 804 Asian American voters in multiple languages and had a margin of error of 3.5 percentage points.