Asians are one of the most ignored constituencies in American politics. When most politicians think about the Asian vote, they don’t.
Yet the Asian-American population is increasing, both in absolute terms and relative ones. By 2050, the Census estimates that Asians will compose 7.8% of the American population. Although their voting rates will still fall far short of this, the population is becoming more influential. Predicting their future voting path therefore has some utility.
In previous posts, this blogger has argued that the Latino vote will likely trend Republican, as Latinos follow the path of previous immigrants and become more assimilated.
Will the same happen for Asian-Americans?
As the graph above shows, the Asian vote has steadily moved Democratic, in quite a significant manner. In 1992 Republican President George H.W. Bush won 55% of the Asian vote while losing the popular vote. 12 years later, his son won only 41% of Asians, despite winning the popular vote.
The trend also does not look bright for the Republican Party. Asian-Americans who have been born in the United States are, if anything, more Democratic than those who immigrated into the country (to be fair, the latter group dominates the Asian population and will continue to do so unless immigration is drastically curtailed).
Take, for instance, the Vietnamese-American population – strong supporters of the Republican Party. The Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund, after conducting an extensive exit poll of Asians (perhaps the only detailed exit poll of the group in the country), found that:
Vietnamese American voters gave McCain the strongest support of all Asian ethnic groups at 67%. However, further analysis of Vietnamese American voters revealed 69% of those born in the U.S. and 60% of those 18-29 years old voted for Obama. Among Vietnamese American respondents, 15% were born in the U.S. and 25% were between the ages of 18 and 29.
The analysis goes on to conclude that:
AALDEF’s exit poll data shows that younger, U.S.-born, more recently naturalized, and English proficient Asian American citizens voted for Barack Obama for President by wide margins. Older, foreign-born citizens with limited English proficiency and who had been naturalized more than ten years ago voted in greater proportions for McCain.
There are several explanations for why this is happening. One quite plausible argument is that immigration has shifted the Asian-American population from Orange County anti-communists to Silicon Valley liberals.
Another revealing insight can be gained by comparing Asians to another very Democratic group: Jews. In many ways the two have a startling amount in common. Both groups are highly educated; both are primarily located in urban metropolitan areas; both have achieved substantial success in American society; and both have encountered quite similar types of discrimination. Even the stereotypes are similar.
Given these similarities, it is very conceivable that Asians could end up voting like Jews – one of the most liberal-minded groups in the nation.