Asian-Americans could become a lucrative political target for Republicans and Democrats in the coming years, given their population growth and political flexibility, the Daily Beast reported Thursday.
Since the early 1990s, Asian-Americans have trended sharply toward the Democrats in presidential elections. In 1992, Republican George H.W. Bush won the Asian-American vote by 24 points in his unsuccessful bid for re-election. But 20 years later, Barack Obama carried the Asian vote by 47 percentage points in winning a second term in the White House —
a 71-point swing in the Democrats' favor.
There are preliminary indications, however, that pendulum may be swinging back in the Republicans' favor.
According to former California Republican Party Chairman Shawn Steel, preliminary exit poll data from the 2014 midterms
showed that close to half of Asian-American voters supported Republican House candidates —
a 46-percentage-point swing from two years earlier, when Asians decisively backed Obama's reelection.
But exit poll data is the wrong way to measure political success, Steel adds. The GOP needs to build a "political bench" and it made important strides in last year's midterms. Across the United States, more than three-dozen Asian-American Republican candidates were elected to state and local offices like school boards, city council positions, and state senate seats.
Over time, according to Steel, "these victories will pay off big dividends to the Republican Party."
Among Democrats, there are warnings about the danger of complacency over the Asian-American vote.
"Democrats just assume that Asian-Americans will turn up at the polls, and vote Democrat," said Dr. Michelle Diggles, a senior political analyst who monitors voting trends for the Third Way —
an organization of moderate Democrats.
"There are very real serious ramifications for the assumption that demographics are destiny for the Democratic Party, Diggles cautioned. "If you don't do outreach, if you don't target, if you don't talk about the issues that they care about, they'll stay home."
Taken as a whole, Asian-Americans are the fastest growing group in the United States — but thus far the least engaged in the voting process, making them a group ripe for the political picking. Just 47 percent of Asian-Americans voted in the 2012 presidential election. That’s a lower proportion than African-American voters (66 percent); white voters (64 percent); and Hispanic voters (48 percent).
But political parties haven’t stepped up, according to the new report from centrist Democratic think tank Third Way, which holds that Asian-Americans just haven't been brought into the American political fold.
Neither the Republican nor the Democratic parties have done anything to consistently target Asian-American voters. The Third Way study points out that a mere 31 percent of Asian-Americans reported being contacted by a campaign during the 2012 cycle, compared to 53 percent all American voters.
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