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Does anyone care about AAPI voters?

AP Photo/Eric Risberg
Women walk along Jackson Street in Chinatown past an “AAPI Community Heroes” mural in San Francisco on May 23, 2022. Chinatowns and other Asian American enclaves across the U.S. are using art and culture to show they are safe, vibrant hubs nearly three years after the start of the pandemic. A rise in anti-Asian hate crimes has re-energized these communities and drawn allies and younger generations of Asian and Pacific Islander Americans.

There are just three weeks left until Election Day and voter behavior analyses are in full swing. We know how much of an uphill climb it will be for Democrats to keep white, working-class voters and that Black voters still overwhelmingly back Democrats but their support is a bit soft in big cities such as Philadelphia. Women are registering to vote in large numbers since the Dobbs ruling and Democrats are winning the Hispanic vote by roughly 25 points, which mirrors President Biden’s 2020 margin but falls far short of their 2016 and 2018 margins.

These are all hugely important plot lines, but something is missing from the mainstream analysis of the 2022 midterm dynamics. What about the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) vote?

It’s curious that AAPI voters have all but disappeared from the national discourse since they were a major factor in tilting the election for Democrats in 2020. They played an outsized role in Georgia and Arizona, states that were central to Democrats taking control of the upper chamber, thereby ensuring that Biden could get his judicial appointments and pass meaningful legislation.

AAPI voters are the fastest growing voting bloc. AAPI eligible voters since 2018 — the last major Democratic wave — have grown by 9 percent in the past four years.

While over 13 million AAPI eligible voters represent about two-fifths the size of Latino and Black eligible voters, Asian and Pacific Islander American Vote’s 2022 Asian American Voter Survey found that only about half of the AAPI registered voters have been contacted by either of the major parties. Fifty-two percent of Asian Americans said they had not been contacted by the Democratic Party in the past year, and 60 percent of Asian Americans said they had not been contacted by the Republican Party.

Given how narrow congressional control hangs in the balance for both chambers, both parties’ inability to reach a persuadable constituency is notable — and disappointing.   

Though data are sparse compared to what’s available for other demographics, we do have some valuable findings to consider. Fifty-six percent of Asian American respondents hold a “very favorable” or “somewhat favorable” impression of Joe Biden, and a June poll commissioned by Civiqs for Justice Unites Us shows that AAPI voters favored Democrats 55 percent to 34 percent on the generic ballot. The numbers narrow to 53 percent to 43 percent in Wisconsin, Arizona, Pennsylvania and Georgia. We also know that in Nevada, which has some of the highest AAPI voter registration as a percentage of the overall community, they could tip the scales in a razor edge race for control.

A look at where AAPI voters fall on some of America’s most important issues indicates that they once again will play a significant role in determining control of both chambers.

Like most Americans, jobs and the economy are the most important issue for AAPI voters. While AAPI communities tended to record lower unemployment than other groups, other labor market statistics, such as median duration of unemployment and joblessness for AAPIs, were 21.9 weeks and 26.1 weeks, respectively, in 2021 — the longest period of any racial or ethnic group tracked by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Health care was integral to the AAPI vote in 2020 and remains so. Across the nation, the Supreme Court’s ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization has the potential to upend expectations for Republican control of Congress. Pew Research found majorities of every race support abortion being legal, though support was higher among Black (67 percent believe it should be legal) and Asian (68 percent) respondents than whites and Hispanics (57 percent and 58 percent, respectively). In fact, the 68 percent from Asian respondents represented the highest level of support, a potential positive harbinger for Democrats.  

And on a more general level, health care access is hugely important. Between language and cultural barriers, as well as economic insecurity, many AAPI communities have little access. The Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Minority Health found that there are significant disparities in insurance coverage and poverty across AAPI groups. According to the most recently available census data, nearly 10 percent of AAPI community members live at the poverty level, with variation between groups; Hmongs have the highest poverty rate at 14 percent.

We have seen midterm voters’ focus on crime and public safety increase as of late. In many ways, the rest of the electorate is catching up with AAPI voters, who were focused on crime because of the abuse they suffered during the pandemic as targets of hate crimes. Since March 2020, Stop AAPI Hate has recorded more than 2,200 self-reported incidents of political rhetoric, “with language that scapegoated Asians and Asian Americans — wrongfully blaming them for COVID-19, espionage on behalf of the Chinese Communist Party, or economic insecurity.” APIAVote found that 73 percent of Asian Americans worry about experiencing hate crimes, harassment and discrimination at least “sometimes,” and 24 percent said they worry about it “very often.” Among those who worry “very often,” support for Democratic House candidates is higher than support for Republican House candidates by a 3 to 1 margin. With 31 tossup House races, according to Cook Political Report, the sentiment could tip the scale in key races.

Furthermore, their influence was pivotal in the June 2022 recall of San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin. His policies, such as eliminating cash bail and reducing jail and prison populations, did not poll well among AAPI communities nationally; data trends toward increasing support for tough-on-crime tactics to address public safety. About half of Asian American adults said stronger hate crime laws would be the most effective policy in preventing violence.

When it comes to education, AAPI communities historically have been divided on issues related to affirmative action. However, with growing politicization of school boards and curriculum, there are questions about whether perceived “woke” agendas will influence voting in November. APIAVote found that, by a 2-to-1 margin, “Asian American registered voters oppose bans on books and bans on lessons about racism in American history by state/local governments or school boards.”

We hope that more consideration will be given to the AAPI community and their role in our politics. When you look at their numbers and preferences, it’s clear that they could, once again, play a critical role in determining the margin of victory on election night — if not the outcome overall.

Jessica Tarlov is head of research at Bustle Digital Group and a Fox News contributor. She earned her Ph.D. at the London School of Economics in political science. Follow her on Twitter @JessicaTarlov.

Jeff Le is a political partner with the Truman National Security Project. He was deputy cabinet secretary to former California Gov. Jerry Brown (2015 to 2019). Follow him on Twitter @JeffreyDLe. 

Tags 2022 midterm elections AAPI asian voters Democratic Party Joe Biden

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