In the past two decades, Asian Americans have become the fastest-growing racial or ethnic group in the U.S. electorate, a new analysis from the Pew Research Center shows.
According to the report, eligible Asian American voters have increased by 139% from 2000 to 2020. This year, more than 11 million will be able to cast their votes, making up 5% of the country’s electorate.
In comparison, the Hispanic electorate grew by 121%, while the Black and white electorates grew by 33% and 7%, respectively.
Interestingly, Asian Americans are also the only major racial or ethnic group in which naturalized citizens compose the majority of eligible voters.
Between 2000 and 2018, eligible Asian immigrant voters doubled from 3.3 million to 6.9 million. And in 2018, naturalized citizens made up about two-thirds of all Asian American voters.
The majority of the U.S. Asian electorate is composed of six origin groups, namely Chinese, Filipino, Indian, Vietnamese, Korean and Japanese. This closely mirrors the Asian American population, with the same six groups accounting for 85%.
These voters are reportedly dispersed throughout the country, but more than half are concentrated in only three states — California (3.6 million), New York (920,000), and Texas (698,000).
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Meanwhile, in Hawaii, Asian American voters outnumber all other racial or ethnic groups, making up 38% of the state’s electorate.
Additionally, Hawaii is where the highest share of Asian Americans are eligible to vote (73%), the research center noted. The District of Columbia (69%), Nevada (66%), and California (62%) follow.
The U.S. Asian electorate also has the highest annual median household income of all racial or ethnic groups, earning $105,000. White, Hispanic, and Black voters all have median household incomes below $80,000.
While such growth in eligibility is promising, voter turnout is a different story, with language playing a crucial factor.
“In 2018, we reached out to a number of Vietnamese voters in California’s Orange County prior to the elections who were limited English proficient. They wanted to vote but had no idea who was on the ballot and clearly had no outreach from either political party,” Christine Chen, executive director of the civic engagement nonprofit APIAVote, told NBC News. “We know that Asian American voters already report low outreach from both political parties, but we know that this outreach, especially targeted outreach in-language, can make a difference.”
One example is Oregon’s Multnomah County, in which some groups reportedly participate at much lower rates than others. These groups include voters whose native language is not English.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, election officials recently joined a virtual conference to conduct outreach. It is unclear whether they plan to conduct similar actions in the future.
“One specific example was the Asian American Youth Leadership Conference,” Tim Scott, elections director, told local broadcaster OPB. “They decided to hold it virtually this year. They asked us to participate as a presenter. And so we held a class on ‘Voting is Habit Forming,’ and we had 50 people attend.”
Whether that translates to turnout is yet to be known. According to Scott, virtual events are not ideal.
“What we’ve learned over time is that people are most comfortable when they are speaking or interacting with someone who speaks their language or looks like them, and that in-person sort of warmth and feeling is not something that we can duplicate in these times.”
Read the full report from the Pew Research Center here.
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