By Rishika Reddy – University of Houston
According to the Census data, Asian Americans are among the fastest growing minority groups in the United States. The Asian American population grew by 46 percent over the last decade, now numbering close to 17 million (http://2010.census.gov/news/releases/operations/cb12-cn22.html). The term Asian American traditionally denotes an individual originating from East Asia, Southeast Asia and South Asia. The largest groups within the population are Chinese Americans (4 million), Filipino American (3.4 million) followed by Indian Americans (3.2 million). At the current growth rate, Asian Americans are projected to compose 9% of the U.S. population by 2050.
Asian Americans are often deemed as the “model minority” but are overlooked by politicians and political parties during elections. Politicians traditionally strategize to attract Hispanic/ Latino voters, African American voters, middle-class voters, working-class voters, but hardly ever Asian American voters. As the fastest growing minority group, shouldn’t Asian Americans be considered an important part of the electorate? Shouldn’t politicians and political parties play an active role by recruiting Asian American voters?
Research conducted by Lake Research Partners concluded 48 percent of eligible Asian American voters turned out for the 2008 election, roughly representing 2 percent of the electorate (http://www.voanews.com/content/asian_american_vote_impact_us_election/666366.html)). Asian Americans in the past decade have gained a significant presence in the political system by running in statewide and national elections. The Asian American presence has peaked to the point of enabling two Indian Americans, Bobby Jindal and Nikki Haley, to successfully win the gubernatorial elections in their respective states.
In spite of their growth, Asian Americans fall behind other groups in terms of political participation. The Asian American population has been untapped by both Democrats and Republicans. Asian Americans have traditionally voted Democrat despite the lack of large scale recruiting by the Democratic Party. In terms of political divisions within the population, Vietnamese Americans tend to identify more with the Republican Party than any other group within the Asian American population. This is in some sense similar to the Latino population, where Cuban Americans have identified with the Republican Party as opposed to Mexican Americans identifying with the Democratic Party (http://www.npr.org/2012/05/02/151856875/are-asian-americans-an-untapped-voting-block).
Unlike African Americans or Evangelicals, Asian Americans are not loyal to a specific party. Africans Americans are large mobilized by the Democratic Party and Evangelicals by the GOP. These two groups, including the candidates they endorse, are given a significant amount of media attention. Although Asian Americans have historically voted Democrat, they are not specifically loyal to the Democratic Party. A significant number of Asian American don’t identify with either the Democratic Party or the Republican Party. Asian Americans make up less than 5 percent of the population and don’t traditionally live in swing states. Two states that can see an impact with Asian American voters are Nevada and Virginia. The Asian American population has grown at a much faster rate in these two states, now composing 6 percent of Virginia’s electorate. Six percent can swing an election either way in a competitive presidential race.
Asian Americans are a diverse group of people with multiple languages, cultures and issues. It is our civic duty as Americans to have a say in the political system. I for one have seen very little political mobilization within the South Asian community. Historically, young people care very little about politics or the political system. Being apathetic is the worst thing one can do for their nation. As South Asians, we can get involved in the political system by volunteering for a particular party or candidate, register voters, hold information sessions during community events and last but not least, vote! One shouldn’t limit themselves to vote in presidential elections, but should make it a point to vote in local and congressional elections also. Like Tip O’Neill once said, “all politics is local.”
Image via Daily Kos