Exclusionary Rhetoric Prompts Seismic Shift in Political Support Among Asian Americans

Survey finds that anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim rhetoric in particular turns off Asian American voters

karthick ramakrishnan

Karthick Ramakrishnan, associate dean of the School of Public Policy and director of AAPI Data, is part of the research team that found divisive rhetoric is pushing Asian American voters away from politicians who use it.

RIVERSIDE, Calif. – Politicians who persist in using divisive rhetoric, particularly anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim sentiment, risk alienating an increasingly influential voting population – Asian American voters.

A survey released this week by Asian Americans Advancing Justice, Asian Pacific Islander American Vote, and AAPI Data found that divisive rhetoric caused more than 40 percent of Asian American voters to state that they would not vote for a candidate who expressed those views.

The report, “Inclusion, Not Exclusion,” presents results from the 2016 Spring Asian American Voter Survey, which was conducted by AAPI Data. That survey polled 1,200 Asian American registered voters by telephone between April 11 and May 17, and targeted the six largest national origin groups – Asian Indian, Chinese, Filipino, Japanese, Korean and Vietnamese – which together account for more than three-fourths of the Asian American adult citizen population.

“The survey shows that Asian Americans are paying close attention to political discourse, and will not vote for a candidate expressing exclusionary rhetoric that only serves to separate communities.  Anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim language will not win over Asian American voters,” said Mee Moua, president and executive director of Asian Americans Advancing Justice (AAJC). “Candidates on both sides of the aisle need to pay attention to our community,” she added, “but our survey continues to show that the majority of Asian American voters have not been contacted by political parties in the past year.”

The survey also indicates that a significant number of Asian American voters have shifted toward identifying as Democrat over the last four years, although a large proportion of the community continues to identify as Independent.

“The Republican National Committee’s Growth and Opportunity Project signaled an interest in outreach to Asian American communities and may have partly succeeded in 2014,” said Karthick Ramakrishnan, UC Riverside professor of public policy and political science and director of AAPI Data. “But, harsh rhetoric by several candidates in 2015 and 2016 seems to have eroded those gains and, indeed, might have made the situation even worse.”

As the Asian American electorate continues to grow, the group stands to play a significant role in political races at the national, state, and local levels. Asian Americans have been the fastest-growing racial group in the U.S. for nearly two decades, and the number of Asian American voters nearly doubled between 2000 and 2012, from more than 2 million to 3.9 million. Asian Americans are predicted to account for 5 percent of voters nationally by 2015, and 10 percent of voters by 2044.

“Voter outreach and education by nonpartisan organizations remains critical and 2016 is poised to be the largest mobilization effort we have seen for the AAPI community,” said Christine Chen, executive director of APIAVote. “The survey shows key problem spots where Asian American registered voters feel that the political system is not responsive to their needs.  Greater investments are needed from the campaigns and parties.”

The survey data also provide a clear snapshot on how Asian American voters feel about a number of different issues. The areas of concern of Asian American voters reflect the concerns held by all voters on national issues, including economic security, immigration, gun control, and the threat of terrorist attacks. On issues of importance to Asian American voters, which include jobs and the economy, education, health care, and the environment, Democrats are viewed as doing a better job.  It is important to note that on the issue of the threat of terrorism, the parties are evenly matched.

Other notes of importance in the survey include:

  • Donald Trump has the highest net unfavorable view among Asian American voters. (19 percent favorable-61 percent unfavorable, compared to 41percent favorable-56 percent unfavorable among the general population)
  • Hillary Clinton has the highest net favorable view among Asian American voters. (62 percent favorable-26 percent unfavorable)
  • Bernie Sanders struggles to gain recognition among Asian American voters (48 percent favorable, 22 percent unfavorable, and 30 percent with no opinion).
  • Asian American voters are progressive on most issues, including the Affordable Care Act, gun control, environmental protection, and increasing government spending to make higher education affordable.
  • In California, which holds its primary on June 7, Asian American voters have a more favorable opinion of Clinton than Sanders.
  • Most are undecided on the Senate race between Kamala Harris and Loretta Sanchez, but support for Harris increases when voters learn that Harris is part Asian American.

Media Contact

Tel: (951) 827-7847
E-mail: bettye.miller@ucr.edu
Twitter: bettyemiller

Additional Contacts

Michelle Boykins
E-mail: mboykins@advancingjustice-aajc.org

Alton Wang
E-mail: media@apiavote.org

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