A new report from the National Asian American Survey reveals that Asian-Americans are continuing to drift away from the Republican Party after decades of staunch support as the party’s most reliable ethnic minority group.
During the Cold War, hundreds of millions of Asians dreamed of escaping communism. President John F. Kennedy saw the opportunity to use an expanded immigration policy as a psychological tool to demonstrate to the world that American ideals of freedom, democracy, and capitalism were superior to those offered by communist states of the Soviet Union, Eastern Europe, China, Cuba, and other authoritarian states.
After a century of systematic exclusion and restrictive immigration policies originally passed to limit the Chinese, the U.S. Congress passed the “Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965.”
The Act abolished the restrictive national origins system originally passed in 1924 in favor of a quota and preference system. The law set up a new priority system that favored “family reunification,” followed by professionals, scientists, and artists “of exceptional ability” and political refugees. Between 1971 and 2001, about 7,331,500 Asians legally became permanent residents of the United States, versus 3,300,400 Europeans.
Asians immigrant who were fortunate enough to escape communism and became U.S. citizens voted overwhelmingly Republican. According to presidential exit polls, 74 percent of the Asian-American vote went to the Republican presidential candidate just two decades ago.
But the Democrat presidential vote share among Asian Americans has steadily increased from 36 percent in 1992, to 64 percent in the 2008 election, and to 73 percent in 2012. Asian Americans were also one of the rare groups that were more favorable to President Obama in his reelection campaign.
Even among Vietnamese-Americans, who were once considered a hardcore Republican voting bloc, the proportion of registered voters identifying as Republican dropped from 42 percent in 2008 to 23 percent in 2016. The number of Vietnamese-Americans identified as non-partisan has grown from 40 percent in 2008 to 47 percent in 2016, according to the survey.
NAAS researcher Janelle Wong commented to Bay Area public radio station KQED that postwar refugees from communism tend to be anti-communist, pro-Catholic, socially-conservative and Republican. But second-generation Vietnamese-Americans voted en masse for Barack Obama in 2012. “Many Vietnamese-Americans tend to be ‘big government people’ — supporting social services, including Obamacare — but aren’t necessarily comfortable with the label of ‘Democrat,’” Wong told KQED.