Why Are Asian Americans Increasingly Voting for Democrats?

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Between 2008 and 2012, Asians overtook Latinos as the largest immigrant group per year. (Pew Research Center)

During the 2012 election cycle, campaigns and pundits paid a lot of attention to the Latino vote and the decisive role it could (and did) play in an Obama victory. There focused much less on Asian Americans. But between 2008 and 2012, Asians surpassed Latinos as the most quickly growing immigrant group, and, like Latinos, they voted for Obama by a margin of about three to one.

Some columnists have pointed out that Asian Americans should have been easy for the Republican Party to woo. Writing for Slate, U.S. Court of Appeals Judge Richard Posner argues that, though Asian Americans are generally satisfied with the direction in which the country is moving and are generally in favor gay marriage and reproductive rights, other issues could saw them in a more conservative direction.

“[O]ne might expect these liberal leanings to count for less than the desire of the nation’s highest-income, best-educated, and most conventionally familial demographic group for lower taxes, fiscal austerity, family values, and an end to affirmative action, which benefits blacks and Hispanics at the expense of Asians. And although most Asian Americans are first- or second-generation Americans, they are not the targets of Republican hostility to immigrants; the target is illegal Mexican immigrants, and from elsewhere in Central America.”

In a blog post for The Monkey Cage and an opinion piece for the LA Times, UC Riverside Political Science Professor S. Karthick Ramakrishnan points out that Asian Americans have gradually shifted to support the Democratic Party over the last two decades. In 1992, 31 percent of Asian Americans voted for the Democratic candidate, Bill Clinton. In 2008, 62 percent voted for Obama, and by 2012, that figure was up to 73 percent. Posner’s piece and others like it, he said, do not take the causes of that shift into account.

Over the last 20 years, Asian Americans have shifted to support Democrats by a significant margin. (National Election Pool Data, via The Monkey Cage)

Connecticut State Representative William Tong, D-Stamford, was the only Asian-American to run for the U.S. Senate this election season from the continental U.S. He dropped out of the primary in May, and the Connecticut Senate seat went to Chris Murphy. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill)

In the LA Timespiece (co-authored by UC Berkeley Professor Taeku Lee), Ramakrishnan and Lee argue that over the last two decades the Democrats have attracted Asian voters while the Republicans have pushed them away. They write:

“Since 2000, the Republican Party has moved more sharply to the right than the Democratic Party has to the left, especially on issues that resonate with Asian Americans. For example, Republicans in Congress escalated their heated rhetoric on immigration and, despite the Bush administration’s efforts, consistently scuttled efforts toward comprehensive immigration reform. “

Ramakrishnan and Lee go on to argue that, more recently, Republicans have lowered their favorability among Asian Americans as a result of their attempts to appease the more conservative Tea Party faction of the party, and their emphasis on Christian values. That could account for the uptick in Asian American support for President Obama between 2008 and 2012.

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  • Ricardo

    The only scary part of the story is that 27% voted for the party with the genocidal agenda that will surely turn on them as it has in times past.

  • Lizzie

    I don’t know why it should be a mystery why Asians voted for Obama/the Democrats. The Republican Party is a party of hate. They hate immigrates and anybody who isn’t white (male). I’m Asian, and every time I hear the Republican party spew their hate speech, it totally turns me off.

    Also, most of us are educated and can see through their lies, and how they twist reality for their own agenda (i.e. global warming deniers, creationist, “trickle down economics”). It makes me sick, the way they propose to help the poor, the sick and the old.

  • Terry

    Easy answer? That atrociously racist ad run by Pete Hoekstra vs. Debbie Stabenow told us everything we needed to know about how the GOP views Asian Americans: as coolie-hatted subversives speaking in ching-chong. The GOP alone is responsible for its racist reputation. Until they start policing their own fringe nuts, that’s the image they’ll project. And yes, Asian Americans were paying attention to campaigns across the country. Especially the racist ones. The internet keeps everything in view.

  • carry miles

    The answer is pretty simple, we asians have different language and cultural background… But all of us can easily close our eyes and imagine ourselves in the position of being lets say the MEXICANs (LEGAL or ILLEGAL), and we’re aware how REPUBLICANS (mostly white folks) treat them…

    What I’m saying is, Its obvious if they can do that to MEXICANS, 100% sure they can also do that to us.

    We asians are just the same a MEXICANS, we have legal and illegal, we have poor and rich, we have SMART and DUMB… But in the end both of us are so called IMMIGRANTS in this WHITE COUNTRY!!!

    You can’t easily fool us ASIANS, we’ve been to a lot of those kind of issue even BACK our HOME.

  • Ranzou

    That was mostly with Republic of China(Taiwain) and Japan. Liberals these days make fun of China despite it not being conservative except for low wages at the beginning and monogamy as well as their technological ability, which capitalism help fuel the US. Pretty hypocritical.

  • Ranzou

    This is not even a white country, get your facts right.

  • JoeGayGuy

    Today’s GOP is selling racism, and not especially veiled at that. Doesn’t take that long to figure it out.

  • Sean Hamilton

    It’s the democrats selling racism, just look at Lt. Gov. Brown, he told the black electorate to go out and vote for the first African American Governor in MD, Harry Reid’s distasteful comments towards Asians also count as racism, and the supporters of Wendy Davis blaming white women for Davis losing when Hispanic and African American women were also not that satisfied.

  • Sean Hamilton

    But if you vote democrat, you simply have been fooled, they want you to vote that way, it’s the new plantation system, and try saying that to the faces of African Americans, Hispanics, Natives, and Asians who all built this nation up for you.

  • Walter Pewen

    I don’t think Brown encouraging black people to vote for a black candidate is racism. In the context of campaigning people do encourage people to vote for candidates because of their positions, records, and yes, who they are-black, asian, brown, gay, women. This typically takes place with these groups because they are under represented. (Most people know this). This discussion could go on forever, and I appreciate your point but we’re dealing somewhat with societal norms. Like Affirmative Action which, with all it’s problems I do support, even though I as a white gay man have nothing to gain from it, and possibly could loose out because of it. “Isms” are pretty complex things.