Dems Need to Increase Asian Voter Turnout

Just VoteThe Monkey Cage is one of the best blogs going. Unfortunately, since it moved to the Washington Post, I don’t read it as much. There just isn’t enough coming from them to pay for a subscription, especially when the news and editorial page so often annoy me. However, I just noticed that they have lowered the price of subscriptions to $7.99 per month, which is slightly tempting. Regardless, earlier this week, Andrew Gelman published an interesting article, Why Do Asian Americans Mostly Vote for Democrats?

He talked about a recent article by political scientists Alexander Kuo, Neil Malhotra and Cecilia Hyunjung Mo published in Politico of all places, Why Are Asian Americans Democrats? The article is brutal to the Republicans. Basically, it finds that Asians identify with the Democratic Party because Asians see themselves as a minority group. And the Republicans can’t seem to utter more than a sentence without sending out the message, “White people are the only true Americans!”

But the authors do provide one potential way forward. In one experiment, they primed Asians by informing them of ways that Democratic policy helped Latinos at Asians’ expensive. This did indeed cause a fall in Asians’ self-identification as Democrat. But the effect was very small. When primed to see Latinos and Asians as a single group, 72% identified as Democrat. When primed to see Latinos as “the other” who take away from Asians, only 67% identified as Democrat. I don’t think this is surprising. The use of in-group/out-group politics is common. What’s more, I think that the Republicans already use this tactic, we just don’t see it much because the Asian community isn’t that large. Regardless, there doesn’t seem to be a lot of room for Republican growth in this study.

Gleman ads another potential cause of the heavy Democratic skew of Asians: urbanity. Asians tend to live in urban areas. But I’m not sure this isn’t just saying that Asians are more liberal. Whites in urban areas are more liberal than they are in rural areas. I know that part of this is that the hatred that is so critical to conservative thought is hard to maintain when you have to actually interact with different people. I remember a commentator (I think it was John Nichols) talking about how his experience of urban blacks was quite different from the stereotype: every day, he saw them lining up to take the bus to work at 6:00 in the morning. But the other side of why people are more liberal in cities is that more liberal people are going to choose to live in the cities.

Whatever the reason that Asians vote Democratic, it doesn’t seem like it is going to change any time soon. A more important question, for Democrats anyway, is why Asians vote at such low levels. According to census data, blacks have been been voting much more over the last 20 years and voted at higher rates than whites in 2012. Latinos have also improved their voting percentages but still have a long way to go. If you ignore the Obama elections, Asians have actually seen their voter participation decline. Even with Obama, they’ve only risen slightly. In the last election, Asians had the lowest turnout of any major ethnic group.

The way forward seems clear. Asians and Latinos seem like they are going to aligned with the Democratic Party for at least a generation. We need to encourage them to vote. The Republicans can work on why Asians don’t like them. I don’t think there is any secret as to why. But the Republicans work very hard at not seeming such obvious facts. If they didn’t, they would be forced to change. And change is not something the Republican Party wants to do. And until they do, that’s good for the Democrats.

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About Frank Moraes

Frank Moraes is a freelance writer and editor online and in print. He is educated as a scientist with a PhD in Atmospheric Physics. He has worked in climate science, remote sensing, throughout the computer industry, and as a college physics instructor. Find out more at About Frank Moraes.

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