Does Presidency Rest on Virginia Asian-American Vote?

Attention, President Obama and Mitt Romney: A quarter of Asian-American voters in Virginia, a prime battleground state, could support either of you this fall.

While 54 percent of Asian-American voters in Virginia said they'd vote for Obama, 25 percent said they are still undecided, according to a new poll released by Lake Research Partners, which conducted the poll in partnership with APIA Vote and the Asian American Justice Center.

"Asian American voters are largely untapped by candidates even though they're expected to vote in record numbers this year. A close election in Virginia could go to the presidential candidate who best engages Asian American voters," said Christine Chen, executive director of Asian & Pacific Islander American Vote in an e-mail. "Asian Americans want to hear directly from the candidates just like voters from every other community."

In Virginia, Romney and Obama are virtually deadlocked, which means that every segment of the electorate can tip the election results. This population is considered to be one of the fastest-growing ethnic groups in the country, making up the largest share of newly arrived immigrants, a Pew Research Center study found.

This population grew by 70 percent between 2000 and 2010, and now represents 5.5 percent of the population in Virginia, according to the Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service at the University of Virginia. Most are concentrated in Northern Virginia.

Yet there's a sense among Asian-American voters that both parties have overlooked them. "Presidential candidates and political parties ignore Asian American voters at their own peril," said Celinda Lake, a pollster. "While Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders seem to prefer Democratic candidates, many don't really know the difference between Democrats and Republicans, because they haven't been engaged by either party."

Case in point: Two days before a presidential town hall at George Mason University hosted by APIA Vote, one of the leading nonpartisan organizations mobilizing Asian-Americans to cast their ballot, it is still unclear which representatives from the Obama or Romney campaigns will show up. More than 1,000 Asian-American voters are expected to attend Saturday's town hall.

Nearly 25 percent of respondents to the survey said they either had no opinion or have never heard of Romney, according to the poll.

The poll interviewed 117 people in Virginia between April 5 and April 15. The results have a margin of error of plus minus 9.1 percentage points.