Asian Americans are the fastest growing immigrant group in the United States. As such, their share of the electorate is rising. In 1996, Asian Americans made up 1 percent of the electorate. By 2012, the amount of Asian-American voters tripled. As the influence of Asian American voters grows, questions have been raised about this voting bloc. Do Asian Americans lean liberal or conservative? How has this group demonstrated its political influence thus far and what issues concern them most? This overview of the Asian-American electorate breaks down what these voters are all about.
Asian Americans: Democrats or Republicans?
Once upon time Asian Americans typically voted Republican. Twenty years ago, these voters preferred the GOP over Democrats by a two-to-one margin, political scientist Taeku Lee told the San Jose Mercury News. That’s hardly the case in the 21st century. Exit polls from the 2012 presidential election revealed that a staggering 73 percent of Asian Americans supported Obama for president. Asian Americans may have felt a kinship with President Obama because he spent part of his childhood in Indonesia, the rest in the heavily Asian state of Hawaii and has a sister who’s half-Indonesian. Moreover, the Obama campaign reached out to Asian voters. But those aren’t the only reasons Asians backed the 44th president.
Asian Americans primarily care about the issues. In 2012, political concerns that Democrats have championed, such as healthcare reform and immigration reform, proved to be of vital importance to this voting bloc, said Daniel Ichinose of the Asian Pacific American Legal Center of Southern California to the Mercury News. What’s more, a 2012 survey of 3,000 Asian Americans conducted by political scientist Lee and others revealed that these voters felt that Obama had done a better job addressing the issues they care about most.
Asian Voters Outpace Blacks on West Coast
Asian Americans may make up only three percent of the national electorate, but their influence in certain states is rising rapidly. In California, for example, 11 percent of voters in 2012 were Asian American, according to the New York Times. That’s nearly double the percentage Asian Americans made up of the state’s electorate in 2008 and larger than the African-American share of the electorate, which was 8 percent in 2012. California wasn’t the only West Coast state in which Asian Americans outnumbered black voters. Washington and Oregon also boasted higher numbers of Asian voters than black voters. That’s a sign that Asian Americans may one day wield the political influence nationwide that black voters do.
Asian Americans Sent Record Numbers of Asians to Congress
Asian-American voters flexed their political muscle in 2012 by sending record numbers of Asian lawmakers to Congress. The Los Angeles Times reported after the 2012 election that the next House of Representative would include 12 lawmakers of Asian-American and Pacific Islander descent—the most ever. Notable Asian Americans elected to Congress in 2012 include Southern California’s Mark Takano, who’s openly gay; Hawaii’s Tulsi Gabbard, the first Samoan in Congress; and Hawaii’s Mazie Hirono, the first Asian-American woman in the U.S. Senate. Both are Democrats. In addition, Illinois Democrats Tammy Duckworth and New York Democrat Grace Meng became the first Asian Americans to represent their states, the Times reported. Although 12 Asian Americans in Congress is undoubtedly groundbreaking, some say there should be even more Asian lawmakers in Washington. Sayu Bhojwani of the New American Leaders Project told the Los Angeles Times that since Latinos and Asians make up a combined 22 percent of the U.S. population, they should have greater representation in Congress. Instead of 12 Asian Americans in Congress, there should be 31, Bhojwani told the Times. Still, she applauds the record number of Asian Americans elected to Congress during the 2012 political cycle, as it “sends a message to our young people that there is no ceiling that cannot be shattered.”