Will Asian American Political Influence Grow as Voting Population Doubles

By Michael Nam

Photo by Shutterstock

There are currently 5.9 million voters of Asian-American descent. And according to a report from the UCLA Center for the Study of Inequality and the Asian Pacific American Institute for Congressional Studies, that number will double to 12.2 million by the year 2040.

The rapid increase in population will bring up new questions and challenges for political parties and governing bodies as electorate power is expected to rise along with Asian-American populations.

The study breaks down the projected growth by multiracial Asian compared to Asian alone identities, generational differences and U.S. born versus naturalized citizens.

Courtesy of Asian Pacific American Institute for Congressional Studies

Those that identify as having Asian and another racial identity mixed parentage will likely have the largest percentage increases due to their current small population size. As intermarriages continue to increase, how mixed-race voters will view their own ethnicity within the context of the overall American electorate will challenge monolithic views.

Courtesy of Asian Pacific American Institute for Congressional Studies

Courtesy of Asian Pacific American Institute for Congressional Studies

There are also marked differences in populations by birth origin and age groupings. According to the study, the population of U.S. born Asian-American voters will nearly equal the foreign born population by 2040, presenting a distinct challenge for political outreach even before distinguishing between multitudes of ethnic subdivisions.

“The Asian American vote is not a monolith,” said Elena Ong, co-author of the report. “It’s important to look at the underlying demographic characteristics Asian American registered voters by age, and by where they were born.”

As noted in an earlier study by the National Coalition for Asian Pacific American Community Developmentregarding economic data about Asian Americans, it’s important to disaggregate the information to get a clearer picture of the reality of the racial group’s requirements and wants when dealing with such issues as finance or politics. Views regarding language resources, immigration law and domestic versus foreign policy will vary between age groups and place of origin. Stereotypes of the model minority can only hinder a nuanced look at the emerging voting bloc.

The Asian-American electorate looks to be nearing 7 percent of the total voting population in 25 years, which does indicate the growth of a significant voice in American politics.

However, as the study also points out, in the time that the Immigration and Naturalization Act and the Voting Rights Act were established in 1965, (legislation that paved the way for an influx of Asian immigrants and allowed them to enter the political process), Asian-Americans haven’t gained as much political representation in comparison to their numbers:

A half-a-century after the 1965 Acts, in 2015, Asian Americans comprise 6% of the nation’s population, but only 1% of the US Senate and 2.3% of the US House of Representatives (10 of 425-435). Three-quarters of a century later, in 2040, where will Asian Americans be

Though projections can be made based on population figures, the influence the growing electorate can bring to the U.S. is still heavily dependent on what issues will unify or divide them going forward. Getting ahead of that curve will certainly be advantageous.

Though projections can be made based on population figures, the influence the growing electorate can bring to the U.S. is still heavily dependent on what issues will unify or divide them going forward.

In the most recent midterm and presidential elections, Asian American voter turnout lagged behind that of other groups like white and Black voters, while being equivalent to that of Hispanic turnout. According to Pew Research, the reason given by survey respondents stated that they were “too busy” to participate.

Getting ahead of the coming curve and engaging the electorate could certainly be advantageous to political parties and activists.

“Cultivating Asian American voters and gaining their loyalty is pivotal to a political party’s future,” said S. Floyd Mori, CEO and President, Asian Pacific American Institute for Congressional Studies. “Securing the Asian American vote in areas with large concentration, and in swing vote states, will be a political game changer.”

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