It’s easy to be annoyed with Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, a/k/a the yearly excuse for non-APAs to pay attention to us.
As a group, we are notoriously “unstatisticized” (coinage mine). There never seems to be a large enough sample size of Asian Americans to be statistically meaningful.
It’s one reason that AALDEF’s multilingual Asian American Exit Polls on election day are so helpful in providing information about Asian American voters that mainstream pollsters often neglect.
So let’s welcome the Pew Research Center report released today that dubs Asian Americans “the fastest-growing racial or ethnic group of eligible voters in the U.S.”
Happy APA Heritage Month to you too, Pew.
The report specifically says “Asian Americans” and does not include ethnic breakouts for Samoans, Tongans, Native Hawaiians, or other Pacific Islanders.
It would have only made our big group even bigger.
Nonetheless, this analysis of Census Bureau data for 2000 to 2020 is still a good APA Heritage Month reminder to all the politicos out there: if they have a pre-2000 lens on us, they’d better get some new glasses.
Our group has grown since 2000—11.1 million eligible to vote this year, 5 percent of the nation’s eligible voters, and the only major ethnic or racial group in which foreign-born naturalized citizens who are eligible to vote (67 percent) outnumber U.S. born eligible voters (33 percent).
According to Pew, Asians, who are 5.6 percent of the total U.S. population, will make up only 4.7 percent of U.S. eligible voters. That’s because of the green card holders, those in the process of naturalization, and unauthorized immigrants in our community.
But still, six-in-ten of all Asian Americans are eligible to vote, as Pew reports.
Note to politicos: If you’re talking smack about immigrants, remember who you’re alienating–the fastest-growing racial or ethnic group of eligible voters in the U.S.
So even as the 2020 campaign seems semi-dormant now, as we limp Covid-style to November, we expect to see more Asian American faces in campaign ads, campaign literature, and on campaign staffs.
We’d better see candidates reaching out to Asian American communities and talking about our issues like we matter.
Of course, the Pew report headline says eligible voters. It doesn’t say we actually vote, or care, or are even registered to vote. (Please register to vote.)
Our eligibility makes clear that we’re citizens, not foreigners.
That alone may be the report’s real value. Next time someone blames you for the coronavirus and says “Go back to China” when you’re from the Philippines, flash them the Pew report.
And let’s hope every political campaign will have a copy of The Pew Report on hand if they’re in California, New York, Texas, New Jersey, Hawaii, Illinois, Washington, Florida, Virginia, Massachusetts, and Nevada, the top states with the largest numbers and shares of Asian eligible voters.
There’s no excuse to ignore us now.
MORE ANALYSIS OF THE ANALYSIS
Here are some other items in the Pew report worth noting.
From 2000-2018, the number of Asian American eligible voters grew by 139 percent. That was faster than the Hispanic electorate’s 121 percent growth. Compare that with the slow pace of African American growth (33 percent) and the White electorate (7 percent).
The GOP was at a real crossroads in 2016 and at first was all set with a post-Bush diversity agenda that embraced all minorities. That’s all been shredded by Trump in the last four years, as he seeks to preserve a white establishment and appeals to the slowest growing electorate in America.
It definitely has guided his Covid-19 response. Blacks dying at record rates. Too bad? Trump says tough. Pacific Islanders dying at 12 times the rate of whites in LA? Too bad. Who are these Islanders again? (See my previous column).
The report does point out that it focused on East, Southeast Asia, and the Indian subcontinent. Just six groups accounted for the majority—Chinese, Filipino, Indian, Vietnamese, Korean, and Japanese—85 percent of all the Asians in the U.S.
The report mentions that Asian eligible voters are more Democratic than not. Vietnamese are more likely to identify as Republican (42 percent) vs. Asians overall (28 percent), Indians are polarized the opposite way, with 50 percent calling themselves Democrats vs. 18 percent calling themselves Republican.
On the economics and English proficiency spectrum, the report points out the differences lie in your arrival date. If you came earlier to the U.S. (Chinese, Filipino, Japanese, Indian), you had higher median incomes and spoke better English. More recent immigrants, such as the Burmese and the Cambodians, did not.
Note the median age of Asian eligible voters. It’s 46. That’s older than Blacks (44) and Hispanics (38), but younger than Whites (51), according to the report.
We’re not kids. Young mature.
The big surprise for me: There is more of a generational difference among U.S.-born and foreign-born Asian Americans, and that may be something you are experiencing in your communities.
Pew put the U.S.-born Asian eligible voter’s median age at 31, while the foreign-born Asian eligible voter’s median age was 51.
How Asian are the U.S. born? Too Americanized for their own good and a source of conflict? Or ready to rally for the greater good?
We’ll see who gets to pick the DJ at the campaign night victory party.
Let’s see if the Pew report provides guidance to politicians and doesn’t just get shoved into some campaign file folder.
Still, I was expecting a more inclusive report that includes Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islanders. As I said 20 years ago in an Emil Amok column, why do some want to ignore that big lump that’s too often swept under our Asian American rug?