If stereotypes won elections, then Mitt Romney would get 100% of America’s Asian Pacific vote.
2012 marks unprecedented media coverage of the potential impact of Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) voters on state and federal election in November. Unfortunately, many of the articles fortify misleading stereotypes of AAPIs and reveal a disturbing failure of AAPI progressives to be politically relevant.
Media heavy hitters including PBS, CNN, Politico, Current TV, the Washington Post, and the National Journal have recently covered the growing AAPI community as the next political game changer in this election cycle.
Invariably, these stories include quotes from AAPIs saying that Romney’s business experience and family values best reflect the priorities of AAPI voters.
Quotes like “What they (AAPIs) care about is economic opportunity, fiscal responsibility; they want government to be as accountable as they were, as individually responsible as they were” stated by Republican congressional candidate Ricky Gill in The Hill and “He will give us pro-business growth policies to help us achieve our American dream,” stated by businessperson Mike Jing in Politico epitomize the media preference for the pro-business stereotype of AAPIs. Inclusion of these quotes in major media outlets reinforces a societal misconception that AAPIs are conservative leaning model minorities.
Research points out a significantly different picture of AAPIs.
Comprehensive polling and surveys conducted by the California League of Conservation Voters, APIAVote, and PEW all paint a much more progressive picture of AAPIs. For example, according to a recent California League of Conservation Voters poll, more AAPI voters consider themselves “environmentalists” than the general public.
In the poll commissioned by APIAVote and conducted by the well-respected firm of Lake Research Partners, AAPIs found Pres. Obama more favorable (73%) than Gov. Romeny (27%).
In the nearly 300 page report by PEW, AAPI opinions on issues like big government, gay marriage, and abortion shatter the image of AAPIs painted by the GOP and echoed by the media.
Specifically, the PEW study showed that AAPIs support activist government 55% to compared to 39% for the general public, support abortion rights 54% compared to 51% for the general public, and acceptance of homosexuality 54% compared to 37% for the general public.
In addition, Romney and the GOP have been ham-handed in their approach to AAPIs. As far back as 2008, Romney took to demonizing Chinese in this primary campaign ad. More recently, the RNC has flubbed by featuring AAPI faces on their Latino website and Romney blowing off a Chinese American voter. Add that to the Hoekstra ad debacle, and the GOP has a big AAPI problem.
As wrong as the GOP and media have been about AAPI voters, AAPI progressives have been lax in providing an alternative view.
The quotes from the “progressive” AAPIs in the same media articles mentioned above on AAPI voting were flaccid and bellicose.
Opportunities to point out the stereotype smashing high points of the research on AAPI perspectives on progressive issues took a back seat to quotes such as “We are a growing, influential, successful group, but we don’t have the courtship or the representation in Congress.”
More importantly, AAPI progressives failed to stay on message and evangelize the points on why President Obama is the best choice for AAPI voters in November. They could have easily pointed out that President Obama has appointed more AAPI judges than any other president in U.S. history, or that he appointed a record-breaking number of AAPIs to cabinet level posts in his first term, or that the President's stimulus plan provided 10,000 loans amounting to $7 billion in economic relief for AAPI small businesses to help them stay afloat amidst the turbulence of our national economic crisis.
AAPI progressives have long complained about not having a voice in the national debate of issues and priorities. Now that they have it, they need to learn how to use it effectively.