WASHINGTON, D.C. — Enthusiasm for the midterm elections is at a high among Asian-American voters, driven largely by an overwhelming antipathy toward President Donald Trump and his policies on immigration and health care, according to a new survey released by the Asian and Pacific Islander American Vote (APIAVote) and AAPI Data. The survey, released Oct. 9, also contained key opinion data on affirmative action and labor protections.
Conducted in partnership with Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance, AFL-CIO (APALA), and Asian Americans Advancing Justice (AAJC), the survey presented the results of interviews conducted by telephone and online from Aug. 23 to Oct. 4 of 1,316 Asian-American voters, 227 of them Indian-Americans. The survey noted that as the Asian-American electorate continues to grow, the group would continue to play a significant role in political races at the national, state, and local levels and pointed out that 48 percent of voters polled had indicated they are “more enthusiastic about voting this year” compared to only 28 percent in 2014.
The survey noted the Democratic Party holds a sizable advantage on most issues, with the most yawning gaps with the Republicans found in the areas on the environment, racial discrimination, health care, and gun control.
At the same time, it said, the GOP fares stronger on issues like taxes, jobs and the economy, and national security and that the Republican Party’s issue advantage among Asian-American voters is stronger than it was in 2014, when it held an advantage only on issues of national security.
The survey found 50 percent of the registered Indian-American voters identifying themselves as Democrats, 18 percent as Republican, 24 percent as Independent and 6 percent, having no party affiliation.
The survey also found that overall, about 3 in 5 Asian-American registered voters, or 58 percent, disapproved of Trump’s job as president, while only about a third, or 36 percent, approved. In the case of the Indian-American community, 2 of 3 Indian-American voters had an unfavorable opinion of Trump’s presidency, with only 28 percent approving of his performance. Four percent had no opinion.
The overall disapproval by Asian-Americans of Trump was a significant contrast from the last midterm survey in 2014, where 50 percent of Asian-American registered voters approved of Barack Obama as president, while 36 percent disapproved.
Karthick Ramakrishnan, founder and director of AAPI Data — which conducts and publishes research on Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders — said, “These data show why it’s vital to survey the Asian-American community, not only because it is the fastest-growing racial group in the country, it is also a politically dynamic population whose vote still remains up for grabs.”
Others who head Asian-American groups involved in the data collection, echoed Ramakrishnan’s contention that candidates need to understand the Asian-American electorate.
“We have seen great enthusiasm from Asian-American voters increase as community organizations and college campuses participate in our regional trainings and organize voter registration and engagement programs,” said Christine Chen, executive director of APIAVote. “They are connecting the dots between their ability to advocate for their communities’ interests and the power of their vote.At the same time, these findings highlight that political parties and candidates are not investing in reaching out to this growing base of active voters, with more than half indicating that they have not been contacted by either party.”
Meanwhile John C. Yang, president and executive director of AAJC, noted that although immigration will weigh heavily on voters ready to cast their ballots, all eyes would also be on affirmative action, where Asian-Americans play a pivotal role.
“We have always known that Asian-Americans strongly support affirmative action and this new survey shows that Chinese-Americans are in favor of affirmative action despite what the current lawsuit against Harvard may suggest,” he said. “In addition, throughout this survey we see Asian-American voters are clearly rejecting this administration’s attacks on immigration and the handling of undocumented immigrants. Their support for undocumented immigrants to have a pathway to citizenship and to be able to access government assistance programs is very encouraging.”
"From safer working conditions to fostering a work environment free from harassment and discrimination to issues of racial and immigrant justice, what’s clear from this data is that Asian-Americans deeply care about issues that the labor movement has long championed,” said Alvina Yeh, executive director of AFL-CIO (APALA). “Our communities will not stand for the extreme anti-immigrant, anti-worker agenda that has disproportionately impacted communities of color, including Asian American workers and families.”
“With this electorate being uniquely positioned to be the margin of victory in key races across the country this November and in 2020, the opportunity now is to do long-term relationship building and outreach and make meaningful investments in programs that educate, organize, and activate Asian-American workers in our labor unions, in our communities, and at the ballot box," Yeh said.
In an interview with India Abroad, Ramakrishnan, professor of public policy and political science at the University of California, Riverside, and founding director of the Center for Social Innovation, said the key take-away from the survey regarding Indian-American voters was that “among Asian-Americans, Indians tend to be the most left-leaning, either in terms of opinions about Donald Trump, in terms of how they plan to vote in the mid-terms. But also on many other issues, they tend to be the most liberal.”
The survey found that nearly two-thirds of Indian-Americans would vote for Democratic incumbents and candidates in House and Senate in the mid-
terms next month that was in sync with 70 percent of Indian Americans favoring the Democratic Party.“In the places where Indian-Americans are numerous like New Jersey, Virginia, Florida, California, and even in the Houston metro area [in Texas], they will tilt toward the Democratic candidate —that’s what this survey tells us,” he said. He said that there are many swing districts this year and lots of Indian-American candidates “so it will be interesting to see what that will mean.”
Ramakrishnan said, “One of the big question marks is —since we haven’t had a survey since 2016 — did Trump make any inroads with Indian-Americans?
And it doesn’t look like he’s done much of that because even though he’s passed certain policies or appointed prominent Indian-Americans to senior posts that may make the Indian-American community more happy, there are other policies like on immigration and also a lot of the rhetoric has publicly turned off people. So, while he hasn’t lost much ground, he hasn’t any gained any ground either.”He also said that as anti-immigrant rhetoric grows louder, a lot of Indian-Americans are staying away from the Republican Party.
With regard to government services, Asian-Americans continue to support bigger government providing more services, including health care access for undocumented immigrants, over smaller government providing fewer services (44 percent versus 24 percent) and noted this support is consistent across ethnic groups, including among groups like Vietnamese-Americans who are Republican-leaning.
Where pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants is concerned, 64 percent of Asian-Americans support, and 20 percent oppose, and support for this policy is consistent across the board, including among Asian-American Republicans.
Indian-Americans indicated a 76 percent support for a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants and more than two-thirds also supported access to health care for all immigrants, irrespective of their legal status.
On the issue of affirmative action, 58 percent of Asian Americans and 78 percent of Indian Americans,believe affirmative action programs designed to increase the number of black and minority students on college campuses are a “good thing,” and an even larger 66 percent favor affirmative action programs designed to help African-Americans, women, and other minorities get better access to higher education.
Gun control also has strong and consistent support among Asian Americans, the survey said, noting that by a nearly a 7-to-1 ratio, Asian-American registered voters favor stricter gun laws in the United States, with 84 percent of Indian-Americans supporting stricter controls.