The rightward lean of Asian voters
Much has been made (and rightfully so) about how the GOP has increasingly captured a larger share of Latino voters in recent elections, putting areas like the Rio Grande Valley into play for the first time in generations.
However, we haven’t seen much analysis of Asian American Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islanders (AANHPI) voters. One of the fastest growing demographics, AANHPI population nearly doubled between 2000 and 2020 and is projected to more than double again by 2060.
In the last two elections – 2020 and 2022 – AANHPI voters have moved toward the right, according to both election returns and exit polling. While, like Latinos, Democrats are still winning these voters, the margins are shrinking.
The high water mark came in 2016, when AANHPI voters backed Hillary Clinton with a 79% share. That number shrank to 68% in 2020 and 64% in 2022 – a very dangerous trend.
In Texas, API voters backed Republican Governor Greg Abbott with 52% of the vote in 2022. In New York City, precincts that were majority AANHPI shifted 23% toward the Republican nominee between the 2018 and 2022 elections. New York City is particularly interesting because AANHPI voters make up 14% of the population and are the fastest growing demographic group.
While more research has to be done for this shift, community leaders have pointed out to increased campaigning in the AANHPI communities by Republicans (and a noticeable lack by Democrats), an uptick in anti-Asian violence and a corresponding tough-on-crime message from the GOP, as well as issues around education, particularly in New York where an affirmative action proposal had some people worry it would reduce seats at the elite public high schools for White and AANHPI students in order to admit more Black and Latino students.
Like Latinos, Asian Americans are politically diverse. Nationally, the most heavily Democratic Groups include those of Indian, Pakistani and Bangladeshi descent, while the least Democratic group is Vietnamese Americans, followed by Korean, Cambodian and Filipino Americans. Of course, regional and generational variations in these groups make it essential to do your own research about your electorate.
Nearly half of the AANHPI population lives in the west, with about a third of the total US AANHPI population residing in California.
The states with the largest AANHPI concentrations are:
New Jersey, 10%
New York, 9%
The broader shift among AANHPI voters coincides with the well-documented shift of lower income, blue collar voters toward the GOP. As the parties increasingly separate on income lines, each party will begin to push policies that reflect the new party bases – Democrats increasingly becoming bolder on, for example, guns, and Republicans less interested in cutting Social Security and Medicare.
What can we do about it?
For a Democratic campaign, it’s essential that we immediately increase our outreach and communication to these key groups of voters. Communications must be culturally competent and include in-language messages and imagery that appeal to AANHPI voters. And, for the love of god, don’t use google translate!
It’s essential to know that while 72% of AANHPI residents are proficient in English, only about a third of the AANHPI population speak only English in their homes. Therefore, in-language communications are essential.
In states and districts with concentrations of AANHPI voters, we strongly encourage working with your pollster to oversample AANHPI voters to ensure that you have a representative sample and can tailor communication programs to these key groups. In many cases, in-language callers or focus groups may be necessary to reach your target audience.
Here at CN4, we cut our teeth helping elect Gary Locke, the first Chinese-American Governor in America (later Obama’s Commerce Secretary and Ambassador to China). We have extensive experience with in-language communications, having reached voters in 16 different languages via direct mail, television, radio, streaming, digital display and video, newspaper and paid phones.
Give us a call at 206-423-0120, we’d love to discuss your program!