Notwithstanding the extreme and numerous uncertainties shrouding the 2020 elections, there are two things that I’m holding to be certain. One, that I am going to vote. And two, my vote is going to count.
Like me there are more than 11 million Asian Americans who are eligible to vote this year. Asian American voters have more than doubled, growing by more than 139 percent since 2000, says Pew Research, and are “the fastest growing segment of eligible voters out of the major racial and ethnic groups in the United States.”
In the past, Asian Americans, as a group, were among the most disengaged in the electoral process, with low voter turnouts. In the 2016 elections, less than half (49 percent) of all eligible voters actually voted. This was lower than whites (65.3 percent) and Blacks (59.4 percent), but slightly higher than Latinos (47.6 percent).
However, the 2016 elections and the “Trump effect” became an electrical charge, firing up this voting bloc. Asian American voter turnout for the 2018 midterm elections was record high and many people of Asian descent stood for and won their elections in San Francisco and California, including Fiona Ma, Betty Yee, Kansen Chu, Evan Low, Phil Ting, Gordon Mar, Carmen Chu and Janice Li.
And this trend continues, according to the findings of a voter survey of 1,569 registered Asian American voters conducted from July 15 to Sept. 10, 2020 by Asian Americans Advancing Justice (AAJC), Asian and Pacific Islander American Vote (APIAVote) and AAPI Data. Those surveyed were Indians, Chinese, Japanese, Koreans, Filipinos and Vietnamese.
The results of the survey confirm that there’s an uptick in Asian American voter engagement. Fifty-four percent of those surveyed plan to vote in the presidential elections by mail and 44 percent plan to vote in person. That works out to 98 percent of all respondents! This enthusiasm, according to Karthick Ramakrishnan, professor of public policy and founder and director of AAPI Data, “suggests that we will see record turnout for Asian Americans for a presidential election in 2020.”
The survey further reveals that a majority of Asian American voters identify as Democrat. This is mostly true even when disintegrating the data, with only the Vietnamese and Chinese breaking that pattern. Indians are the most likely to vote Democrat and Vietnamese least likely. Conversely, most Vietnamese are likely to vote Republican, with Chinese and Indians least likely to do so. A majority of Chinese Americans surveyed reported leaning toward the Independent category (41 percent) or are unsure of which party (5 percent) they want to vote for.
The Joe Biden-Kamala Harris ticket is favored by Asian Americans as a whole. The Vietnamese are the only group among those surveyed who preferred the Trump-Pence partnership (48 percent to 36 percent).
These results reveal that Chinese Americans are unsure about the Democratic party, yet are decidedly in favor of Joe Biden. The reasons could be many: Trump’s anti-Chinese rhetoric, the rising incidents of hate targeting the community, the legal immigration clamp-down, and support of Black Lives Matter.
Other findings of the survey relate to policy prerogatives.
When it comes to jobs and the economy, Asian Americans believe that the GOP is better at stabilizing the economy. Party preference shifts when it comes to health care, education and immigration with all but the Vietnamese preferring Democratic party priorities.
While most are still managing to pay their bills, three out of four Asian Americans have at least some concern about health care affordability.
A majority support the civil rights movement, and agree strongly that there should be better climate change legislations, stricter gun laws and health care for all immigrants.
These findings lead me to hope that more Asians are going to fill out their ballots this November and a majority will be leaning heavily progressive.
Sure, there are manifest dangers to these kinds of assumptions. But President Trump’s first term should serve as a litmus test for the changes we want to see in America.
We put a man in the White House who doesn’t give a damn about any one of us: Blacks, Native Americans, Asians, immigrants, people of color, women, the LGBTQ community, the underprivileged, the marginalized, those in poverty, disabled, sick and the aged. We paid the price. Now it’s time to recoup our losses.
Since 2016 we have endured. And 2020 has tested us.
Even as I write this, millions of acres in our beloved home state of California continue to burn, displacing people, damaging property and endangering the lives of many. People are out of jobs, and many are not optimistic about seeing any financial aid come their way. The first wave of the pandemic is still not under control, and has resulted in close to 2,000 deaths, largely due to the president and his team’s misrepresentations and fabrications. Small businesses are failing. Health care worries are compounding as the winter season draws near. Racial inequities are being deepened and we’ve acquired a new vocabulary steeped in hate and intolerance.
Asian Americans constitute about 5 percent of all U.S. voters and can make a difference in the November elections. The very act of voting will make Asian Americans part of America. More importantly, the act of voting makes America ours. Our vote is our voice. It’s time to use it.
Jaya Padmanabhan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @jayapadmanabhan. She is a guest columnist and her point of view is not necessarily that of The Examiner.