Why and How President Obama Engaged with Asian Americans in 2012

Hi! My name is Chuck Yu, and I’m a senior at West Point, double majoring in American Politics and Chinese. This year, I’m taking a look at how and why President Obama engaged with Asian Americans in the 2012 elections.

After the 2012 elections, there were several news articles that came out stating that a coalition of minority voters had come together to help secure an electoral victory for President Obama. In a study co-sponsored by the National Asian American Survey, the Asian American Center for Justice, and other Asian American interest groups, it was found that Asian American participation in the 2012 elections was at an all time high, and it advocated for more engagement with the Asian American population for future elections. Being interested in Asian Americans in politics, I decided to take a closer look and see if there was a difference in the level of turnout between 2008 and 2012 for Asian American voters for myself. Indeed, there was a positive change. After some further research, it seemed that mobilization efforts were largely spurred by President Obama’s campaign with the help of advocacy groups in various battleground states. This led me to ask why now target Asian Americans in 2012? and how did President Obama’s campaign manage to mobilize a population traditionally considered as “low propensity” voters?

The why of my question looks at the various factors that caused President Obama’s campaign to reach out to Asian Americans. I hope to be able to secure interviews with various people who worked with his campaign, especially those in the battleground states, to gain insight into what the decision calculus was, and if it was a decision made from top to bottom or bottom to top.

The how of the question will look at and compare mobilization efforts with voter turnout in the 2012 battleground states. The goal is to be able to determine which type(s) of mobilization method(s) was/were the most effective with the Asian American population. I will be using voter turnout as a proxy for the effectiveness of mobilization efforts. This data will encompass pre-election polls, exit polls, and the CPS voter response surveys.

By answering these two questions, I hope to not only get at what mobilizes the Asian American community specifically, but I’d also like to see if I can glean what the decision point is for campaigns to spend time and effort in targeting populations that usually don’t turn out to vote. There are a lot of moving parts to this study, and I think that my biggest problems are going to be securing the interviews and getting the data that looks at voters on an individual level. I look forward to discussing any ideas or comments y’all might have for my study.


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