In the countless commentaries focusing on the demographic factors shaping the outcome of the 2012 election, there has been virtually nothing said about the contribution of Asian-Americans to the electorate and to Barack Obama’s reelection. It will be hard to ignore this growing group of voters much longer.
Since at least 2009, the number of Asian immigrants entering the United States has exceeded that of Hispanics, and in 2012 Asian-Americans cast a higher percentage of their ballots for Obama than did Hispanics (73 percent to 71 percent). Members of this very diverse community accounted for about 3 percent of the electorate on Nov. 6. Since Asians continue to migrate to the U.S. in large numbers, and because about 30 percent of Asian-Americans in the country now are not yet citizens but are likely to become so in the future, their share of the electorate should keep growing.
The 113th Congress going into session in January will include a dozen Asian-American members, the largest number ever. Irvine, Calif., in the heart of the formerly solid Republican Orange Country, cast 52 percent of its votes for Obama, principally because Asian-Americans now make up almost 40 percent of the city’s population.
The presence of Asian-Americans in the 2012 election was not limited to candidates or voting; they were even part of its pop culture. Throughout the campaign, videos emerged depicting the presidential candidates dancing in “Gangnam Style,” a Korean version of hip-hop. One, featuring a dancer with a striking resemblance to Obama, came to the president’s attention causing him to remark that he might be able to repeat some of the dancer’s “moves,” but only privately for the First Lady and not at an inaugural ball.
Another was designed to inspire a trip to the polls by young Asian-Americans living in the 626 area code of California’s San Gabriel Valley, heavily populated by Asian-Americans of varied national backgrounds, especially Chinese.
Asian-Americans overwhelmingly identify as Democrats. Asian-Americans identify with or lean toward the Democratic Party rather than the Republican Party by an almost 2-to-1 margin (50 percent to 28 percent). Similar to Hispanics, among whom Cuban-Americans traditionally identify with the GOP while those of Mexican and Puerto Rican descent most often see themselves as Democrats, there are nationality variations in party ID among Asian-Americans.
Indian-Americans (65 percent Democrats to 18 percent Republican), Japanese-Americans (54 percent to 29 percent), Chinese-Americans (49 percent to 26 percent) and Korean Americans (48 percent to 32 percent) are solidly in the Democratic camp.
Filipino-Americans (43 percent Democrats to 40 percent Republican) and Vietnamese-Americans (36 percent to 35 percent) are evenly divided in their partisan identification.
Like Americans generally, younger Asian-Americans and Asian-American women are slightly more likely to call themselves Democrats than older voters and men.
Asian-Americans tilt liberal. Asian-Americans lean more toward the liberal than the conservative side of the political spectrum. Among all Asian-Americans, 31 percent say they are liberal, 24 percent call themselves conservative, and 37 percent say they are moderate.
By contrast, in a Pew survey of the general public conducted at about the same time as its survey of Asian-Americans, 34 percent identified as conservatives, 24 percent as liberals, and 37 percent as moderates. Younger Asian-Americans are particularly likely to be liberal rather than conservative (39 percent to 17 percent).
Asian-Americans favor activist government. A majority of Asian-Americans prefer a “bigger government that provides more services” rather than a “smaller government that provides fewer services.” In this regard, they are the mirror image of the general public which favors a smaller rather than a bigger government by 52 percent to 39 percent. Asian-American women are far more positive about “big government” than men (61 percent to 49 percent).
Asian-Americans have more liberal views on social issues. The majority of Asian-Americans believe that abortion should be legal in all or most cases and that homosexuality should be accepted. On both of these social issues the beliefs of Asian-Americans are virtually identical to those of the general public.
As is the case with Americans overall, young Asian-Americans are substantially more likely to hold “liberal” beliefs on social issues. However, not surprisingly, as among Americans generally, social issue attitudes are shaped to a far greater extent by religion rather than demographics.
Large majorities of non-Christian Asian-Americans (Hindus, Buddhists and those unaffiliated with a faith) support tolerance of gays and relatively open abortion policies. Most Asian-American Christians take the opposite stance.
Asian-Americans approve of President Obama and are more positive about the direction of the U.S than Americans overall. At the time the Pew survey was conducted, 43 percent of Asian-Americans said they were satisfied with the way things were going in the U.S., more than twice the percentage of the general public that felt that way (21 percent). As a result, a majority of Asian-Americans (54 percent) approved of the way Obama was handling his job as president. That was 10 points higher than his approval rating among the general public.
Given their majority Democratic identification and liberal leanings on issues, the high level of Asian-American support for Obama in 2012 and 2008 (when 63 percent voted for him) is not surprising. Even more important, those identifications and attitudes suggest that Asian-Americans are likely to be a component of the Democratic coalition long after the president has left office.
Joseph Berger at The New York Times has a great article about ethnic job niches. In his piece, Berger suggests that as Koreans and Italians move out, Latinos are moving up:
The Koreans who streamed to the United States in the 1970s were often middle-class professionals who might have needed years to learn English and obtain their American credentials in engineering or chemistry. But a small nest egg might buy a store in a ragged neighborhood, and there were plenty of fruit markets and delis being forsaken by aging Italians and Jews. These older immigrants sold out to Koreans partly because the children they had sent to college did not want to inherit a business where they would have to lift fruit cartons. “The niche is not disappearing, but the previous occupants are,” Professor Kasinitz said.
A perfect illustration is what’s happening now: Since fewer South Koreans are leaving their now-prosperous homeland, and college-educated Korean offspring here want less grueling work, Latinos who once worked for the Koreans are taking over their stores. Similarly, Italian landscapers in the suburbs are slowly giving way to companies started by the Latino laborers the Italians once hired to cut grass.
So here’s my question: once Latinos take over Korean delis, do we start calling them bodegas? And in gentrifying neighborhoods, who is going to run those bodegas when the Latinos move out? The hipsters?
And, Latino Decisions has a new tracking poll out showing that while Latino support for the Affordable Care Act remains high, it has decreased over time. From today’s release:
Latino support for maintaining the law remains higher than the general public, as 49% of the sample report that the Affordable Care Act “should be left as law” compared to 31% who believe that the “bill should be repealed”. Thus, compared to the general public at large, Latinos demonstrate a much lower preference for repeal (31% compared to 46% in Gallup). However Latino support for Obama’s health care plan has dipped over time.
Matt Barreto, LD’s lead pollster suggests that perhaps the dip can be attributed to a lack of White House outreach. What do you think? Was this a missed opportunity?
"Older politicians will have to get beyond their ideological blinders to recognize the opportunity waiting for any candidate or political party that can embrace both halves of the Millennial era civic ethos paradox."