Asian-Americans' Vote Up for Grabs
Based on findings from an exhaustive and significant survey of Asian-Americans that Pew Research released yesterday, the mainstream media concluded that Asians are the fastest growing immigrant group, lean toward Democrats, and will help the left in perpetuity.
Not so fast.
In fact, many data points from the survey indicate that Asians, with political allegiances yet unformed and far from cemented, could be the GOP’s last, best hope and be the firewall the GOP temporarily needs while it tries to make more inroads into the Hispanic and African-American communities that lean heavily toward Democrats. Further, the views of Asians regarding assimilation, meritocracy, and family make them ripe to be permanently Republicans. And if that were to occur, the chances of Republican candidates doing better in blue states -- like California and New Jersey -- in which the Asian-American population is rapidly growing significantly increase.
The mainstream media took two main points away from this poll. First, Pew found that in 2010, 430,000 immigrants were Asian and 370,000 were Hispanic. Based on this data, nearly all mainstream media headlines read that Asians were outpacing Hispanics immigrants even though the study only took into consideration the number of legal immigrants. Second, Pew concluded, based on their survey, that more than half of Asians who were surveyed (Asians, though, are the most difficult group to survey because they are of many heritages and lack a unifying language, like Hispanics) tilted to Democrats, liked “activist” (despite the word “activist” never being used in their questions) government and supported Obama.
But “identify with or lean toward” Democrats does not mean Asian-Americans are firmly Democrats. Likewise, 22 percent of Asian-Americans do not lean to either party while 28 percent identify with Republicans. From the data, a significant chunk of Democrat-leaning and unaffiliated Asians are those whose political views have not yet congealed.
And consider what Pew found regarding how Asians feel about family, individualism and meritocracy, and assimilation, which make them ripe for Republicans.
They also stand out for their strong emphasis on family. More than half (54%) say that having a successful marriage is one of the most important things in life; just 34% of all American adults agree. Two-thirds of Asian-American adults (67%) say that being a good parent is one of the most important things in life; just 50% of all adults agree.
Their living arrangements align with these values. They are more likely than all American adults to be married (59% vs. 51%); their newborns are less likely than all U.S. newborns to have an unmarried mother (16% vs. 41%); and their children are more likely than all U.S. children to be raised in a household with two married parents (80% vs. 63%).
A century ago, most Asian Americans were low-skilled, low-wage laborers crowded into ethnic enclaves and targets of official discrimination. Today they are the most likely of any major racial or ethnic group in America to live in mixed neighborhoods and to marry across racial lines. ..
In fact, Pew found that “just 11%” of Asians “currently live in a census tract in which Asian Americans are a majority,” compared to 41 percent of blacks and 43 percent of Hispanics. Further, Pew found that
Asian-American newlyweds are more likely than any other major racial or ethnic group to be intermarried. From 2008 to 2010, 29% of all Asian newlyweds married someone of a different race, compared with 26% of Hispanics, 17% of blacks and 9% of whites.
Asians, like Hispanics, identify more with their country of origin than the pan-ethnic term. But one disturbing concern is that only 28 percent of native-born Asian-Americans who were surveyed refer to themselves as “American” even though their actions are becoming more "American" and are assimilating faster than other minorities.
According to Pew, 69 percent of Asians think “most people who want to get ahead can make it if they’re willing to work hard” versus 58 percent of the general public, which makes them a perfect fit for the GOP's emphasis on individualism and self-reliance.
Strangely, Pew found that 55 percent of Asian-Americans prefer a “more activist government” even though the question their pollsters asked to come at this conclusion was:
If you had to choose, would you rather have a smaller government providing fewer services, or a bigger government
When Asian-Americans hear this question, they could be thinking of the police protecting their small businesses or the immigration official who approved their visas. But, as the Pew survey found, Asians are the most highly-educated immigrant group in history and their median income is the highest among all groups, so their reliance on government would logically seem to less than the poll numbers indicate. And if a question such as “would you like to pay more taxes to pay for government pet projects you don’t use?,” Asians would probably come off as favoring much less “activism” in government.
Pew also interestingly found that nearly 80 percent of Asian-Americans found being of Asian decent “make no difference” or improves their chances in the college admissions process. This is an example, especially since Asian-Americans are discriminated against in favor of other minorities by colleges who use affirmative action, where the politically correct responses the respondents gave may not comport with how Asian-Americans really think.
This is why some of the conclusions Pew drew -- especially the political ones -- should be taken with a grain of salt.
The median age among second-generation Asians is just 17 and 95 percent of second-generation Asians say they speak English very well compared to only 53 percent of foreign-born Asians. In 2005, 58 percent of Asians in the United States were foreign born; by 2050, only 47 percent will be foreign born. These numbers are important because “2010 Census counted more than 17 million Asian Americans, or 5.6% of the U.S. population” and that number reflects a population that “grew faster than any other race group from 2000 to 2010 (46%), quadrupled from 1980 to 2010” and will continue to grow. Much of that growth will be fueled by second-generation Asians, and it is a group Republicans need in order to compete in key swing states in which minorities will continue to give Democrats a thumb on the scale in statewide elections.
Obama received 96 percent of the African-American vote. But keep in mind even when an African-American is not on the ballot, African-Americans have swung overwhelmingly for Democrats, giving Al Gore 92 percent of their vote in 2000 and Kerry 88 percent in 2004. Hispanics are also trending in that direction. For instance, in 2010, a Pew Hispanic survey found that 65 percent of Hispanic voters would be voting for Democrats, and Obama received a similar percentage of the Hispanic vote in 2008 when 67 percent of Hispanics voted for him. These numbers are making Democrats competitive in swing states such as Nevada, Virginia, North Carolina and may even make them competitive down the line in states like Arizona, Texas, and Georgia, states Democrats would not even have thought about contesting just a decade ago.
If one looks at the 2010 Census data, though, the Asian population (keep in mind that "population" is different from "registered voters") has grown rapidly in many of these swing states. In Nevada, there has been a 116 percent increase. That number is 95 percent in Arizona, 85 percent in North Carolina, and 70 percent in Virginia.
In the “lower 48 (which obviously excludes Hawaii where Asians make up nearly 40 percent of the population), Asians make up 13 percent of the population in California, 8 percent in New Jersey, 7 percent in New York, 6 percent in Nevada, and 5.5 percent in Virginia. In states like California and New Jersey, Republicans can be competitive -- and win -- statewide if Asians move over to the GOP's column.
But in the near-term, the Asian-American vote will be critical in swing states like Nevada and Virginia. And in other states like Georgia, North Carolina, and Arizona, it may help prevent Democrats from putting those states more in play. In Nevada, Filipinos, a group that was nearly evenly split between Democrats and Republicans may tip many an election. But Asian-American voters will be the most significant in Virginia, which may be the most important bellwether and swing state for the next two decades. Two of Virginia's largest Asian groups are those of Indian descent in Northern Virginia (Indians are among the most Democratic) and Korean descent.
Korean-Americans in Virginia may be the single-most important subgroup for Republicans. In Virginia,there are 70,577 Koreans and in Fairfax County, in Northern Virginia, there are 41,356 Koreans. According to the Pew survey, Koreans are more Protestant than other Asian groups and their views on social issues line up neatly with those of Evangelicals. If Virginia is the state that will decide national elections by percentage points, how fervently Korean-Americans swing toward Republicans may determine the ultimate success of conservatism and the GOP on the national level.
Since Pew also found that Asian-Americans are the most connected group to the online world (80 percent of those surveyed had an Internet connection), political opinions among Asians can shift more rapidly than those of other groups, and this is another reason why Republicans should not only actively court but be optimistic at their chances of rapidly winning over a constituency whose natural inclinations, especially on issues dealing with family, meritocracy, and assimilation, seem tailor-made for the Republican Party.
If Republicans cannot bring Asian-Americans into their fold and Asian-Americans vote overwhelmingly for Democrats like Hispanics and African-Americans currently do, the Republican Party, on the national stage, may be in serious peril.