“Minority” No Longer, Asian Americans Emerge as a Force in the Nation’s Civic and Political Life
New Report by LEAP Examines Role of Asian Americans in Electoral Process
October 01, 2008
WASHINGTON—(U.S. ASIAN WIRE)— A new report from LEAP has brought the nation’s rapidly growing Asian American population into sharper focus as they emerge from a silent minority into an awakened giant cognizant of their potential impact on society and ability to exert influence in the political and civic life of the nation.
The report, “The State of Asian America: Trajectory of Civic and Political Engagement,” published by Leadership Education for Asian Pacifics, Inc. (LEAP) a public policy institute, in collaboration with the University of California Asian American and Pacific Islander Policy Multi-Campus Research Program (MRP) examines demographic trends, political preferences and the emerging influence of Asian American voters, among other issues.
“The political mobilization of Asian Americans-with one of the highest growth rates of voting age citizens among all racial groups in the U.S.-will have a significant impact on local and national elections in coming years,” said Paul Ong, Ph.D., editor of the report and professor at UCLA’s School of Public Affairs and Department of Asian American Studies.
“We wanted to fill a gap by publishing a major policy report on the political and civic interests of this increasingly influential group as it gains momentum and gathers national attention,” said J.D. Hokoyama Ph.D., president and CEO of LEAP, which in 1992 created the Asian Pacific American Public Policy Institute, a source of demographic information and policy analysis. “Our report includes a wealth of new research and findings on political and civic engagement, providing a clearer understanding of Asian Americans and their influence in the country,” Hokoyama continued.
The report’s 11 chapters, written by leading academics in Asian American studies, is the fifth in a series of major public policy reports by LEAP on “The State of Asian America.” The report is a future-facing look at the Asian American community and explores a number of issues including growth trends, political and civic engagement, immigrant status, the importance of the 2010 Census, Internet use, and state of Asian American non-profits.
The report points out that about 61% of Asian Americans are foreign born, the highest rate of any minority group in the country. Asians Americans as a predominantly immigrant population is a trend expected to continue through 2030, presenting challenges to the political mobilization of the community. Asian Americans nationalize at the highest rate of any immigrant population at 57%. But, nationalization is only the first of three barriers to political participation, the others, registration and turnout, can also be very challenging.
According to the report, party identification is central to the way that Americans think and act on politics, but it can be difficult for foreign-born Asian Americans to acquire partisanship, an affiliation that takes shape at a young age through familial and peer interactions. Without partisanship as a political and psychological compass to navigate the political environment, it can be difficult for Asian Americans to develop the emotional connection to candidates and issues that precipitate turnout. Despite the fact that first-generation Asian Americans immigrants are a fast-growing constituency, today’s political parties have not engaged them due to a lack of organizational capacity and cultural literacy.
Some tracking the growth of the Asian American political engagement liken Asian American’s political posturing to that of Hispanics in the 1980s due mostly to stunning population growth, the report says. Population growth in combination with increasing number of second and third generation Asian Americans means the community is becoming an increasingly important voting bloc. And like the Hispanics, they are a voting bloc that trends Democratic. By a margin of two-to-one, Asian Americans identify as Democrats.
The report notes that Asian Americans flex political muscle in states including California, where one-third of Asian Americans live, and in New York, New Jersey, Texas, Nevada, and other areas. In Virginia, another state with a significant Asian American voting bloc, the Asian American contingent helped to contribute to the razor thin victory of Jim Webb over Republican incumbent George Allan, according to Ong.
Through the report, LEAP seeks to provide community activists, policymakers and researchers with a roadmap for understanding Asian American political and civic engagement. To advance the knowledge created in the report LEAP will host a series of roundtable discussions in major cities across the country. (Washington, D.C. on Sep. 30th; New York on Oct. 1st; Boston on Oct. 2nd; Los Angeles on Oct. 7th; San Francisco on Oct. 8th; and date soon to be decided in Chicago and Seattle.) The report was underwritten by The Carnegie Corporation of New York, The James Irvine Foundation, and Washington Mutual, with further support of community roundtables from Nielsen Media Research.
Since its founding in 1982, Leadership for Asian Pacifics Inc. (Leap) has been intent on “growing leaders” within the Asian and Pacific Islander communities across the world. A global, nonprofit organization, Leap is guided by the philosophy that APIs can retain their unique cultures, identities and values while developing new and vital skills that will make them effective leaders within their own organizations, their communities and the broader society. Leap works to achieve its mission by developing people, because leaders are made, not born; informing society, because leaders know the issues; and empowering communities, because leaders are grounded in strong, vibrant communities. Through its mission of “growing leaders,” Leap expands civic participation, grows public understanding and leadership development of Asian and Pacific Islanders.
About The University of California Asian American and Pacific Islander Policy Multi-Campus Research Program
The University of California Asian American and Pacific Islander Policy Multi-Campus Research Program (MRP) promotes and coordinates applied and policy research on topics relevant to California’s growing Asian American and Pacific Islander population. The MRP serves as a bridge linking UC researchers to community organizations, the media, and elected officials and their staff. These activities help the University of California to integrate research, teaching, and community outreach in ways that inform and enlighten public discourse on important public policy issues. The MRP is supported through funds from the UC Office of the President, UCLA’s Asian American Studies Center, and other academic units from throughout the UC system. Professor Paul Ong is the Director, and Professor Bill Hing is the Associate Director.
For more information or to download the report, visit http://www.leap.org/inform_main.html.