Reaching out to a group as vast as Asian American Pacific Islanders requires a siloed approach to be effective, President Barack Obama said Tuesday during a Washington gala hosted by the Asian Pacific American Institute for Congressional Studies.
He said the group is disproportionately affected by various health and education disparities that require continuous attention by policymakers.
“If we're going to do a better job addressing [these problems], then we are first going to have to stop grouping everybody in one big category,” Obama said. “And we have to respect that the experiences of immigrant groups are distinct and different, and your concerns run the gamut. That's something Washington needs to understand better.”
Obama told the crowd that he felt connected with the group because he spent his childhood around people like them in Hawaii and Indonesia. He also has a half-sister, Maya Soetoro-Ng, who is half-Indonesian.
He cited various political appointments of Asian-American officials he has made, and his reestablishment of the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in 2009.
The fact that Obama attended the event “shows he has commitment to the Asian American community,” Nate Shinagawa, a Democrat who is running for New York's 23rd District, told reporters. Reflecting on Obama's work over the last three-plus years, he added that “I don't think a president has shown this level of commitment in a long time.”
A recent study conducted by Lake Research Partners showed that Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders identified themselves as Democrats over Republicans by a three-to-one margin.
Despite this, both parties have largely ignored the group, according to APAICS data, which found only 23% of the demographic had been contacted by the Democratic Party, compared with the 17% contacted by the Republican Party.
About 83% of Asian Americans or Pacific Islanders say they are almost certain to vote this year. 2010 census data showed the group is 18.5 million people strong.
Obama's Asian American outreach comes as Republicans begin their own efforts targeting Latino voters.