Minority Voters Key in Obama’s Re-election

UC Riverside political scientists analyze November election results on Charter California Edition



RIVERSIDE, Calif. — Asian American voters supported President Barack Obama by a wider margin than Latinos in the November election, a further indication of the degree to which GOP positions on immigration and other issues alienated minority voters, according to political scientists from the University of California, Riverside.

In interviews on Charter California Edition — a 30-minute program produced by Charter Communications — political science professors Martin Johnson, Loren Collingwood and Karthick Ramakrishnan analyzed aspects of the presidential election and the voters who re-elected President Obama. The program can be viewed online.

All agreed that unprecedented support for the Democratic candidate from Latino and Asian-American voters will prompt much debate within the Republican Party about how to talk to minority voters.

“They clearly got it wrong,” Johnson told Charter California Edition host Brad Pomerance. “The future of the Republican Party does not lie in alienating those communities. … The Republican Party is going to … decide what (it) is going to be and stand for.”

The impact of Super PAC money on the campaign following the Supreme Court’s 2010 decision to allow anonymous political spending by corporations was equalized somewhat by the Obama campaign’s warchest, Johnson said. The Romney campaign relied heavily on Super PACs — independent expenditure committees — while Obama’s campaign committee raised far more than Romney’s. Under Federal Communications Commission rules, TV ad rates are significantly cheaper for campaign committees than for Super PACs.

Collingwood noted Obama was able to win a larger percentage of Latino voters in 2012 than he did in 2008 — about 71 percent — and won 58 percent of Latino voters in Florida, where Cuban American voters have strongly supported Republican candidates in the past. GOP support for policies that many perceived to be anti-immigrant “sends a message of racial fear and hate, even though you can argue, as Republicans do, that this is just a policy issue and they’re trying to do something.”

In California, where Democrats won a supermajority in the state Senate and Assembly, “there’s not a whole lot Republicans can do,” Collingwood said. “They need to protect their base, but they need to be completely open to Latinos in terms of  immigration. … Basically they’re going to have to wait until the Democrats do something really stupid, which can happen in politics.”

No other group has shifted its support more dramatically than Asian Americans, Ramakrishnan said. Twenty years ago 31 percent of Asian American voters supported Bill Clinton; in November, 73 percent voted for Obama, approximately 2 percentage points more than the margin of support by Latino voters.

Clinton’s pro-business orientation was partly responsible, Ramakrishnan said. But in the last decade, GOP views on immigration and “some of the Christian conservatism that is a very vocal and public face of the Republican Party” have hurt the Republican Party when it comes to outreach to Asian Americans, he said. “…If you look at socioeconomic status and some of their social values, you think (Asian Americans) may be a natural fit with the Republican Party.” Asian Americans, however, generally believe in government as a potential source for good and support larger government that provides more services, he said, the opposite of traditional GOP philosophy.

Asian Americans are not as set in their party orientation, Ramakrishnan added, “so that still means either party could try to attract them. But it also means they could be sensitive to parties that produce messages that turn them off. This still a highly immigrant population and the kinds of messages coming out of these parties end up being very important.”

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Additional Contacts

Martin Johnson
Tel: (951) 827-4612
E-mail: martin.johnson@ucr.edu

Loren Collingwood
Tel: 951-827-5590
E-mail: loren.collingwood@ucr.edu

Kathick Ramakrishnan
Tel: (951) 827-5540
E-mail: karthick.ramakrishnan@ucr.edu

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