Saturday, July 9, 2016

Republicans and the Tightening Demographic Noose: Asian Americans

Much has been said of the Republican Party’s difficulties with the Black and Latino minorities in the United States.  Republican acceptance of the traditionally racist policies that continue in the former slave states that make up the core of the Party’s constituency will continue to keep blacks voting Democratic.  Latinos possess a different political and cultural legacy, but have coalesced into a generally anti-Republican stance driven by the extreme anti-immigrant policies espoused by Republican candidates.  There is, however, another significant minority that receives little attention with regard to voting and election impacts—the Asian Americans.

Karthick Ramakrishnan provides an assessment of the Asian-American minority with regards to political viewpoints and voting tendencies.  His article, How Asian Americans Became Democrats, appeared in The American Prospect.  Ramakrishnan is professor of public policy at the University of California, Riverside, and director of AAPI Data and the National Asian American Survey. 

Asian Americans are better educated and more affluent than African Americans or Latinos.  While early immigrants were poor laborers and were discriminated against, and there is the legacy of the forced interment of the Japanese during World War II, recent immigration is composed more of educated people seeking greater opportunity rather than those driven by economic deprivation.  Given this background, Republican pundits once assumed that Asians would be more at home with the economic policies they promoted.  At one point, they might have been correct, but as the Republican Party changed, so did the voting habits of those with an Asian heritage.

“In 1992, the majority of Asian Americans had voted for George H. W. Bush, creating the impression that as an upwardly mobile and affluent group, they would continue to vote Republican.  But 20 years later, in an astounding shift, Asian Americans moved 40 points toward the Democrats in presidential elections.  Since they are also the fastest growing racial group in the United States, the change has major implications for the future of American politics.”

What caused this change in political support?  According to Ramakrishnan it was due to changes that occurred in the two political parties.

“The actions of parties and political leaders over the past two decades provide a far better explanation for the politics of Asian Americans today than do the disparate cultural traditions that immigrants have brought with them.”

Ramakrishnan claims that Democratic leaders made a conscious effort to recruit Asian Americans to their way of thinking by becoming more business friendly starting with the Clinton administration.  Of more consequence seems to be the repulsion generated by the changes in policy incorporated in the Republican agenda.  While immigration issues may not be identified as highest priority, Asian Americans seem to have deep feelings about welcoming immigrants, encouraging diversity, and according respect to people of other heritages—matters at which the Republicans fail miserably.  Asian Americans also believe that government has a significant role to play in society, are willing to pay higher taxes for improved services, support gun control measures, and reject the Evangelical Christian sentiment that drives the Party.

Surveys of Asian American sentiments have produced the following results.

“A 2014 AAPI Data survey of Asian American registered voters found that 41 percent would consider switching their support away from a candidate who expresses strong anti-immigrant views.”

“Another development pushing Asian Americans away from the GOP has been the rise of Christian conservatism in the Republican Party.  The 2012 PEW survey on Asian Americans indicated that the strongest level of Democratic Party support comes from Hindus and those who claim no religious affiliation (these groups make a significant share of Indian Americans and Chinese Americans, respectively).”

“National surveys have shown that on issues that matter to them such as education, job creation, and health care, Asian American voters have consistently favored the Democratic Party and the positions the Democrats endorse.  For example, Asian American majorities have supported steps to expand health-care access, such as the Affordable Care Act [Obamacare]….Asian Americans are also strong supporters of gun control….and they tend to support bigger government spending even if it means paying higher taxes….”

As the political parties have become more polarized, Asian Americans have moved more firmly to the side of the Democrats.

“Although Bill Clinton won only 31 percent of the Asian American vote in 1992 (or 36 percent of the two-party vote if we exclude Ross Perot), Al Gore won 55 percent in 2000, followed by John Kerry with 56 percent in 2004, and Obama with 62 percent and 73 percent in 2008 and 2012 respectively….Obama won every major national origin group of Asian Americans in 2012…..”

In 2012, Obama received the greatest support from Indian Americans at 84% of the vote and the least from Vietnamese Americans at 62%.

One should expect that Asian-American support will again go predominately to the Democratic candidate in 2016.  What might that imply in terms of an electoral advantage?

Josh Richman tried to produce such an analysis based on data available at the time just before the 2012 election.  His analysis should still be relevant.  It appeared in The Mercury News in the article Asian-American voters could become game-changers in presidential election

Richman concluded that although the Asian American population was not large (about 5%), it was large enough to matter in battleground states where every vote counts.

“Coupled with Pacific Islanders, Asian-Americans represent the nation's fastest-growing minority group. Census data show that the population grew by 41 percent nationwide from 2000 to 2011, but at higher rates -- in many cases, much higher -- in nine of 11 states likely to be key battlegrounds in November's [2012] presidential election.”

Richman also produced this chart to support his contention.

In a close race, Asian Americans are now numerous enough to swing an election—and it seems it will only get worse for the Republicans as time goes on.

The interested reader might find the following articles informative:

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