Motley Moose – Archive

Since 2008 – Progress Through Politics

The Future of the Asian-American Vote

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?

More below.

Probably not:


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.



  1. There is a current underneath a lot of the GOP’s politics as of late that worries a lot of folks. The push for profiling is one. I had family caught up in the Internment. We know full well the dangers of simply righting folks off because of the actions of folks overseas, that we have nothing to do with, but share some ancestry. The rumblings of racial profiling, and the current unrest in many of the Pacific Rim nations, that is just a little kooky for some. Let’s not forget that a lot of folks are also here on work visas, and angling for citizenship. How we treat these immigrant communities is important, and the “Build a Fence” crowd is not doing the party any favors, save with the Lilliest of white voters.

    The Asian American community is diverse. It isn’t a voting bloc that is united. Chinese Americans are fairly different than Japanese Americans. Or Thai. Or Filipinos. Or Koreans. That is something that the “Asian” community faces all the time. It is similar to everyone of Latin descent being “Messican” though, and folks deal with that fairly often. My buddy Hilda is Korean, and we are conflated as being the same thing, despite my being born in Okinawa. Japanese and Koreans, yes, we share some history, there are some linguistic ties, and the Japanese forebears definitely left some folks behind in Korea before pushing on, but there are more than just linguistic differences.

    The problem isn’t the “Asian” vote, but both parties really need to think about targeting communities. Japanese Americans aren’t Chinese Americans–there are very different cultural and historical underpinnings to the experience in America. As Vietnamese have a whole different relationship to America as well. The same with my Tagalog speaking Filipino homies. Understanding that difference is crucial in winning those communities’ votes. Our relationship with America is vastly different, even if most of you gaijin can’t tell us apart. 😉

  2. could be explained by Confucianism? If my, admittedly limited, understanding is correct, Confucius espoused deference to tradition and authority. Adherents would therefore be much more likely to favor the GOP. Future generations would be more influenced by the general American culture and would therefore be less deferential to tradition and authority, thus leading them to be more liberal.

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