WASHINGTON, Oct. 27 (Xinhua) -- Asian Americans could determine the electoral outcome in U.S. swing states with large Asian populations, as President Barack Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney are neck-and-neck in the race, experts said.
In undecided states with rapidly growing Asian-American populations such as Nevada and Virginia, Asian Americans could provide the push that puts either candidate over the finish line amid a neck-in-neck race, said Mee Moua, president of the Asian American Justice Center and former Minnesota state senator, in an interview with Xinhua.
Contrary to the often-held belief that Asian Americans are solidly in the corner of Democrats, Moua noted a 31 to 34 percent independent block within the Asian American community that is neither Democrat nor Republican.
"People should not write this community off as already... bought by the Democratic Party," she said last month at a panel discussion at the Woodrow Wilson Center.
Indeed, while President Obama in the last election took 62 percent of the Asian American vote, the recession has had a devastating impact on small businesses and disproportionately impacted Asian Americans.
As such, the president is not faring as well with Asian voters as he did in 2008, said Henry Olsen, director of the National Research Initiative at the American Enterprise Institute, in a panel discussion at that think tank Thursday.
This comes amid a tightening race in which Romney on Friday tied Obama in Wisconsin after lagging behind by two points a week earlier, according to a Rasmussen poll. Obama has fallen slightly behind Romney in Florida, is locked neck-and-neck with Romney in Virginia and remains ahead in Ohio.
A RAPIDLY GROWING MINORITY
There are nearly 18 million Asian Americans in the U.S., and the country's most rapidly growing minority has expanded by 46 percent over the last decade.
In 2010 the group comprised 5 percent of the country's total population in 145 congressional districts and more than 600 cities. Most importantly for the upcoming presidential elections, 600,000 new Asian American voters entered the electorate in 2008, with a similar number of voters expected in November, according to the 2012 National Survey of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.
The Asian population has doubled over the last decade in hotly contested Virginia, growing to nearly 14 percent, according to U.S. census figures. In Fairfax county, 30-minute drive from the nation 's capital, Asians comprise nearly 18 percent.
Still, the group has one of the lowest rates of voter registration, and even those who vote tend not to do so in the same percentage as other groups.
A recent study by APIAVote in association with Lake Research Partners found that both Democrats and Republicans have largely ignored this group of voters. Only 23 percent of Asian Americans say they have been contacted by the Democratic Party in the past two years and 17 percent by the Republican Party.
But officials from the Obama campaign said they are fighting for the Asian-American vote."This campaign is not taking them for granted. We have a very active Asian American outreach program," said Cabinet Secretary and co-chair of the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders Chris Lu, in an interview with Xinhua.
"Even groups that trend your way, you never want to take any of them for granted," he said.
Romney has been quoted in U.S. media as saying that he would not cede an inch to the Obama campaign, referring to the Asian American vote.
Of major importance to Asians living in the U.S. is immigration reform, as many are unable to remain in the country after completing a university degree here because of difficulties obtaining work visas.
The Obama administration has promised to overhaul the nation's broken immigration system but has been criticized for dragging its feet on the issue.
Lu said the U.S. needs to do more to encourage foreign students to start businesses here, but added that the visa issue remains a problem.
When asked what specific steps the administration would take to rectify the situation, Lu said those would come with comprehensive immigration reform. He added that there are a number of proposals on the table, but did not give any specifics.