The GOP’s struggles with an immigrant-heavy group may cost the party dearly in November. And no, it’s not (just) Hispanics—Asians are also in play. In the Wall Street Journal, Gerald F. Seib has a must-read analysis, starting with the national numbers:
Asian-Americans are the nation’s fastest-growing racial group. More than nine million of them will be eligible to vote in November, up 16% from four years ago.
The bad news for Republicans is that this growth in the Asian-American electorate appears to be accompanied by an increasing tilt toward the Democrats. One national poll of Asian-American voters earlier this year found a 12-point increase in those who identify as Democrats since 2012, to 47% from 35%.
The growth in the Asian-American population reflects the fact that immigration to the U.S. is much more Asian than conventional wisdom has it. Legal immigration from Asia has been higher than legal immigration from Latin America for almost a decade now, and China and India have overtaken Mexico as the largest countries of origin for immigrants—legal or otherwise. While we’re wary of straightforward projections (such as declarations that because all trends will continue, Asian-Americans will overtake Hispanic Americans by 2065), there’s no doubt that the importance, electoral and cultural, of Asian-Americans will continue to increase.
If anything, Seib’s post understates the GOP’s problems. Seib cites an Asian and Pacific Islander American Vote (AAPI) survey that grabbed headlines in May for the claim that,“More than 40 percent of Asian-American voters surveyed said they would oppose a candidate—whom they otherwise agreed with on most issues—if he/she had anti-immigrant or anti-Muslim views.” In the year of the Donald, that’s obviously bad news, and Asian-Americans have a 2:1 unfavorable view of the Republican candidate that almost exactly mirrors a 2:1 positive view of Hillary Clinton.
But as I wrote when the survey came out, a deeper dive showed that the percentage of Asian-Americans who would vote for the anti-immigrant candidate anyway was actually higher than the overall percentage planning to vote GOP in Congressional races—meaning the party is even less popular than was the anti-immigrant stance associated with Donald Trump. The GOP’s deep-seated problems with Asian-Americans go far beyond its immigration policy. Historically, most immigrant groups have tended to organize on the center-left. (See this essay for a longer dive into why that’s so.) In the case of Asian-Americans, this tendency appears to have been exacerbated by superior Democratic outreach and subpar Republican outreach. And the GOP still doesn’t have many of the post-Blue policy answers figured out that it would need to appeal to less secure, more urban immigrant groups while not alienating the current Republican base.
So what does that mean this year? Seib points out has some interesting numbers, starting with Virginia:
Can that matter? Ask Democratic Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia. He won re-election two years ago by the narrowest of margins, defeating Republican Ed Gillespie by fewer than 18,000 votes out of 2.18 million cast. Virginia’s large population of Asian-Americans likely provided the difference. They make up 5% of the state’s electorate, and a pre-election poll showed them going for Mr. Warner by a 2-to-1 margin.
Nationally, the impact of Asian-Americans isn’t huge. They make up only about 4% of eligible voters. But in some key battleground states their impact will be significantly larger. In addition to Virginia, Asian-Americans make up 9% of the electorate in Nevada, 7% in New Jersey and 3.1% in Minnesota. In California, they make up almost 15% of the electorate.
Like Hispanics, Asian-Americans’ political activism hasn’t always matched their numbers, but that may be changing. The number of Asian-Americans running for Congress rose to 40 this year from eight just eight years ago. In one of the nation’s most prominent Senate races, Democratic Rep. Tammy Duckworth of Illinois, an Asian-American fluent in Thai and Indonesian, is seeking to knock off Republican Sen. Mark Kirk.
Some of these states (VA, NV) will matter more in the Presidential elections than others (CA, NJ). But given the AAPI’s poll on congressional candidates, this is bad news at the Congressional and Senatorial level as well.
It’s doubtful that the GOP can significantly reverse some of these trends before November, though individual Congressional or Senatorial candidates may be able to come up with some ways to stanch the bleeding locally. After the election, if the result is the Republican loss that polls for some time have been predicting, the discussion about why and what’s next needs to include a greater focus on the Asian-American vote.