What Asian Americans think about Biden and abortion
Honestly, I don’t care much for polls. Sure, I’ll write about them, but usually they say very little about Asian Americans (including Filipino Americans) and what we think politically.
The small sample size makes them useless to understand us. There’s barely enough of a sample to mention where Blacks or Hispanics stand on the issues. At best, with a general margin of error of three to five percent in a poll, you get a homogenized sense of a feeling. It’s not concrete, but it is data in the moment. A “snapshot in time,” with all the utility of Kleenex, ultimately, discardable.
But there is one poll I love to talk about—the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF) exit poll—which specifically targets a large group of Asian Americans, registered and engaged, right after they’ve voted, and it’s all done in-language.
Mainstream pollsters don’t speak any of our languages and would normally let Asians walk by and ignore their input. The AALDEF poll talks to people in 11 Asian languages, including Tagalog. There’s Arabic, Bengali, Chinese, Gujarati, Hindi, Khmer, Korean, Punjabi, Urdu, and Vietnamese.
On Election Day 2023, over 140 AALDEF volunteers talked to voters in seven key states—Georgia, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, and Virginia—and found Asian Americans still strongly supported Democratic candidates a vast majority of the time
East Asian, South Asian, Southeast Asian, our group diversity is pretty much covered in AALDEF exit polling.
On Election Day 2023, over 140 AALDEF volunteers talked to voters in seven key states—Georgia, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, and Virginia—and found Asian Americans still strongly supported Democratic candidates a vast majority of the time.
And when it came to key issues, Asian Americans were 64.5 percent in support of access to legal abortion and 64.5 percent in support of protecting transgender people from discrimination.
That’s the good news. You don’t have to scratch your head on how Asian Americans feel. There’s data.
The “bad” news is that just as mainstream polls have shown drops in support among Blacks and Latinos for Biden, the AALDEF exit poll shows Asian Americans were also less enthusiastic about a second term for the president. In all states polled, the Biden approval rating was at just 35.4 percent, about half of what I would have expected. Noteworthy also is the high disapproval rating for Biden, 42.1 percent.
A fairly high 22.5 percent said “Don’t Know.” At least for now.
I was surprised by the numbers because Biden is probably the most proactive president for Asian Americans we’ve had. He picked African-American/South Asian Kamala Harris as his running mate. After being elected, Biden did not hesitate to come to our defense with proclamations and actions to denounce the trend of AAPI hate in America.
So a 41.2 percent disapproval rating is higher than I’d expect.
Still, there’s no reason to panic for you Biden fans. Polls sound an alarm. You see a weak spot, you shore it up. Biden has one year to get it right. He won’t get younger. But perhaps he can do more to change your lives positively than his likely Republican counterpart, the twice-impeached, four-time criminally indicted on 91 felony counts candidate. That guy.
Ask people in November 2024 and the numbers no doubt will change. And it will count.
But it is a concern now as we see how Biden adjusts and begins to make sure that Blacks, Latinos, and Asians are a part of his winning coalition.
In my reading of the AALDEF poll, the top issues for Asian Americans were education, health care, and public safety. The economy did not come up as strongly as one would expect based on mainstream coverage and polling.
So what might be the winning issue for Dems and Biden? Abortion.
GOP on abortion rights
One positive sign from this past week is the issue of abortion, when voters in Ohio chose to protect abortion rights by writing it into the state constitution. And it passed because suburban voters in conservative districts flipped and voted for abortion.
For the “pro-life”/pro-baby party, it changes a bread-and-butter issue. The SCOTUS ending of Roe v. Wade at the federal level pushed the fight to the states. And Republicans are finding at the grassroots level that it’s a losing issue, and they are dumbfounded.
In a red state like Ohio, not only did Republicans want the right to an abortion, they also wanted marijuana legalized. Apparently, a large number of Republicans in Ohio want their freedom from conservative social standards.
What will the GOP do to plug up the Ohio gap? Or to at least downplay the loss?
Here’s how you have your cake and eat it too on abortion.
I’ve found in US history when the going gets tough, the tough go racist. Republicans can simply say, OK, you can all have your abortions; we don’t want to pay for your kids’ education and health care and safety anyway. And with low US birth rates, abortion is probably the most effective way to keep BIPOC populations down.
It capitalizes on the racist spirit of MAGA.
My fear is that at some point, the GOP will bring up race with abortion, in much the same way as it brought up race in issues in the past like immigration, or education, or public safety. It’s just the natural way to go for a political party bent on standing up for its white supremacy roots.
My fear is that at some point, the GOP will bring up race with abortion, in much the same way as it brought up race in issues in the past like immigration, or education, or public safety
As if on cue, just this past weekend, Trump stepped up the hate rhetoric when he said he’d root out his detractors he described as “vermin.” It’s a disgusting revival of autocratic rhetoric from the likes of Hitler and Mussolini. And now Trump. Already, reports say if elected Trump hopes to bring back the Muslim travel ban as well as rounding up undocumented people to be placed in camps until they can be deported.
To go racist on abortion is just the natural way to go for a Trump-led party bent on standing up for its white supremacy roots.
The Ohio vote shows the GOP has already lost its way on the issue. And they surely don’t want other red MAGA states to flip blue. So instead of saying, “We were wrong to take away the right to abortion,” I think the odds are good for the GOP to go completely racist on abortion.
And where do Asian Americans stand? According to that multi-state AALDEF exit poll, we are at 64.5 percent in support of legal access to abortion rights, which aligns with Democrats and Biden.
I would say that’s troubling for Republicans who are looking to us to join the trend of breaking the Democratic hold on BIPOC communities. Abortion may just be the issue to keep the winning Biden coalition together.
We’re still a year away from the 2024 election, but at least we have a targeted Asian-American poll that lets us know where the broad Asian-American community stands on the issues.
When mainstream polls ignore us, we are out of the snapshot, left out of the equation.
Thank goodness there’s a poll like AALDEF’s that fills the void with data. That means Filipinos as part of a broad Asian-American coalition definitely show up and can’t be ignored.
(Emil Guillermo is a journalist and commentator who writes a column for INQUIRER.net’s US channel. He was the first Filipino to host NPR’s “All Things Considered.” He will talk about this column and other matters on “Emil Amok’s Takeout,” his AAPI micro-talk show. Live @2p Pacific. Livestream on Facebook; his YouTube channel; and Twitter. Catch the recordings on www.amok.com.)