On a rainy afternoon in Northern Virginia, Asian American and Pacific Islanders (AAPIs) young and old came out to George Mason University in Northern Virginia to find out what this year’s presidential candidates will do for them.
As the nation’s fastest growing racial group, AAPIs have a new status in this year’s presidential
election -- the untapped, swing vote, especially in battleground states.
This makes the location of Saturday’s Presidential Town Hall in Fairfax County, Virginia, all the more meaningful. AAPIs now account for 5.5 percent of Virginia’s population, with most of them in Northern Virginia.
However, President Barack Obama and former Governor Mitt Romney did not turned up for the event, and chose instead to send their surrogates to speak for them.
Representative Mike Honda (D-California) represented Obama and Tom Davis, a former US congressman from Northern Virginia, spoke for Romney.
In a new poll by APIAVote and Lake Research Partners, AAPIs are three times more likely to identify as Democrat than Republican.
According to the poll, AAPIs view Obama favorably, but “feel much less so when it comes to his job performance.” Like other Americans, AAPIs who were surveyed said they were not happy with the current state of the economy.
Both Davis and Honda answered questions on how the candidates would address the cost of higher education, health care reform and the Affordable Care Act, and access to capital for small businesses.
“His story is our story,” Honda said of President Obama and his family, which includes half-sister Maya Soetoro-Ng, who is of Indonesian-descent.
Davis told the audience if the current administration wanted to reform immigration, it would have. Immigration reform needs to be a top priority for whoever becomes president, he said.
Davis and Honda also paid tribute to the tragedy in Aurora, Colorado, where a gunman killed 12 people and injured 58 others at a midnight premiere of “The Dark Knight Rises.” For both speakers, the incident served as a reminder for bipartisanship; to reach across the aisle to compromise.
Still, much of the AAPI vote remains undecided between the two candidates.
“While Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders seem to prefer Democratic candidates, many don’t know the differences between Democrats and Republicans, because they haven’t been engaged by either party,” said pollster Celinda Lake.
The town hall was also live streamed with viewing parties in over 19 states.
Here’s how the conversation went online:
Kelly Chen manages social media and engagement for The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer on PBS.
The previous issue of Hyphen is available in its entirety for your perusing pleasure. Almost as good as having it right in your hands!