Asian Americans are fastest-growing group of eligible voters; leaders advocate data over stereotypes

Anabel Munoz Image
Friday, March 1, 2024
Asian Americans are fastest-growing group of eligible voters in US
Asian Americans are the fastest-growing group of eligible voters in the country, and leaders are urging political campaigns to choose data over stereotypes.

LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- Asian Americans are the fastest-growing group of eligible voters in the country, and now, there may be a shift in strategy on how political parties are trying to win over this group of voters.

Monterey Park Mayor Pro Tem Vinh T. Ngo has witnessed the growth and increased civic engagement of AAPI communities.

Ngo is the son of Chinese immigrants to Vietnam. The family migrated to the U.S. in the late 1970s. "We had one Chinese market and a couple of banks. We had some restaurants. That's it," recalled Ngo.

According to the latest census data, Monterey Park is now roughly 65% Asian American.

"Now you have more Asian API elected officials," Ngo said, adding that it is evidence that more people are getting involved "They know that their voice actually makes an impact, especially in public policy."

According to a new Pew Research Center analysis, Asian American eligible voters grew about 15% in the last four years, by about two million people. Among Asian Americans, South Asians are the fastest-growing demographic.

It is projected that roughly 15 million Asian Americans will be eligible to vote in November. California is by far home to the most -- 4.4 million, or a third of the entire Asian American electorate.

Asian Americans make up about 17% of the state's electorate.

Political campaigns have taken notice, and researchers are urging them to choose data over stereotypes. "One of those is the model minority myth, the idea that Asian Americans have a special value for education, and a value that is more prominent than for other groups," said Janelle Wong, senior researcher at AAPI Data.

"They certainly do care about education, but they don't prioritize it more than other groups prioritize education," Wong said.

A new AAPI Data/AP-NORC Poll asked AAPI communities about their priorities in 2024. Topping the list: inflation, immigration and the environment.

"They are healthcare voters, they are environmental voters and they are gun control voters," said Wong.

"You ask folks around the community, to constituents, they'll say public safety," said Ngo. "You got to have crime prevention."

The majority of Asian American eligible voters were not born in the U.S., they are naturalized citizens. Karthick Ramakrishnan, AAPI Data founder and director, said that makes them persuadable.

"It matters because most Asian American voters did not grow up in a Republican household or a Democratic household," said Ramakrishnan.

The direction they're persuaded in can be consequential. The last several years have marked a key increase in voter turnout.

"In 2020 we saw a 400% increase in Asian American young voters in the early voting stage," said Connie Chung Joe, CEO of Asian Americans Advancing Justice Southern California (AJ SOCAL). "They were voting to send a message that those politicians who were targeting and scapegoating Asian Americans for COVID was not okay."

"All of a sudden, there wasn't just this group that was just growing nationally or at a statewide level in California. They can make the difference in a bunch of congressional races," said Ramakrishnan.

He points to Orange County as an example. There, roughly 23% of the population is Asian American. The Democratic and Republican parties are investing in these voters who make up a sizeable portion of so-called purple districts.

"You have current members of Congress like Michelle Steel, like Young Kim in Orange County, that the Republican party invested in starting in 2013," said Ramakrishnan.

Nationally, AAPI voters have shifted from leaning more Republican in the 1990s to being pretty strong Democrats, Ramakrishnan added. Between 2/3 to 3/4 of Asian Americans voted for the Democratic candidate over the last three election cycles.

There are differences in political ideology, religion, immigration status, and language, to name a few. Despite that, Ramakrishnan said it's remarkable how much unity there is.

"Issues like environmental protection, issues like gun control issues, like paying higher taxes for more social services," he said.

They're not just growing in numbers, they are showing up at the polls.

"I think whether it's in local, all the way up to national elections, we really want to send that message that our vote is important. Don't underestimate our vote," said Chung Joe.