Probably No Giant Tilt To GOP Among Asian-Americans

One of the numbers that jumped right off the page at anyone looking closely at last week’s exit polls was this one, as I noted at the time:

[M]ost startling of all, among Asian-Americans Republicans improved from 26% in 2012 to 49% in 2014.

I figured at the time there may have been some issues with the sample for Asian-Americans, and as we learn today from Taeku Lee of Cal-Berkeley writing at The Monkey Cafe, there almost certainly was:

Exit polls are not designed to produce representative samples of groups within the electorate, such as Asian Americans. Warren Mitofsky, the “godfather of exit polls,” noted that errors in such polls “appear mostly among demographic groups that are both relatively small and those that tend to be geographically concentrated” — in other words, groups such as Asian Americans….

One article suggests that this year’s exit poll yielded only 129 interviews with Asian Americans. My efforts to confirm this number have been unsuccessful, but if that is indeed the sample size, it is conspicuously small, with a margin of error approaching 9 percent.

But sample size cannot be the sole culprit. Another part of the story involves the precincts that were selected to be polled and the characteristics of Asian Americans in those precincts. Although Asian Americans vote Democratic by a wide margin, they do not do so everywhere.

For instance, in this year’s Asian American Decisions poll on election eve, Asian Americans in Virginia voted heavily for Sen. Mark R. Warner (D) instead of Ed Gillespie (68 percent to 29 percent), while Asian Americans in Texas split evenly between Democrat Wendy Davis and Republican Greg Abbott (48 percent to 48 percent) in that state’s governor’s race. A full post-election analysis requires knowledge of which Asian Americans the 2014 NEP polled and where — facts that are not at present publicly available….

[T]he Asian American Decisions poll interviewed 1,150 Asian Americans in six languages (English, Chinese, Korean, Vietnamese, Tagalog and Hindi) — including a nationally representative sample of 770 respondents and an oversample of 380 respondents for state-specific analysis of Asian Americans in California, Texas and Virginia.

From this data, we find that in the 2014 congressional elections, 66 percent of Asian Americans voted for the Democratic candidate. By comparison, in 2012, the Asian American Election Eve Poll found that a 73 percent of Asian Americans had voted Democratic in congressional races [exactly what that year’s exit polls found]. This suggests a much more modest shift toward Republican voting among Asian Americans.

And a more believable one as well.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.