Analysis 09-09-2016


The Enigma of the Asian-American Voter in 2016

Despite all the talk about Hispanic voters, the fastest growing immigrant group in America is Asian.  There are over 10 million Asian-American voters, making up about 4% of the American electorate – twice the numbers of Jewish-American voters.

However, their voting patterns are still hard to tie down.  Although studies show that this group favors Democrats by a 2-1 margin that is not a hard and fast rule.  In the 2014 mid term election, the GOP took 50 percent of Asian-American voters, according to exit polling, versus 49 percent of Democrats.

The result came as a surprise to political observers. Obama once dominated among Asian-American voters, getting 62 percent of the vote in 2008 and 73 percent in 2012. Even in another recent Republican wave year, 2010, the GOP earned only 40 percent of the Asian vote.

Actually, Asian-American voters come from a variety of cultures.  The six largest groups by country of origin are Chinese Americans, Filipino Americans, Indian Americans, Vietnamese Americans, Korean Americans and Japanese Americans.  And, the country of origin has a big impact on how they vote.

Vietnamese Americans traditionally exhibit the strongest support for Republican candidates (generally, it is believed, because of their anti-Communist leanings). Many of these voters are clustered in communities along the Gulf of Mexico and have helped Republicans maintain their recent dominance in several southern states.  And polling shows that Trump’s biggest Asian-American support comes from Vietnamese Americans.

In Texas, Republican senator John Cornyn launched a media and field campaign targeting Vietnamese-American voters during his reelection bid in 2014, in which he sailed to victory.  Republican Greg Abbott took 52 percent of the Asian-American vote in his successful race for governor.

But, was 2014 an aberration?  Will Asian-Americans vote Democratic this year?

What Asian-American voters are Thinking

Good evidence is hard to find.  A survey of Asian-American voters taken earlier this year by the Asian Pacific Island Association focused primarily on their opinions of Clinton and Trump, which gave an overwhelming anti-Trump result.  Given the sea change in opinions of Clinton and Trump in the last few months, much of that data may be obsolete and misleading.

However, by looking at data not directly related to Clinton or Trump, we still see a strong Democratic edge.  When asked about Obama’s job approval, Asian-American voters gave him a 67% approval, while all registered voters only give him an approval rating in the high 40% range.

There was, however, a big difference between the Asian background of the voters.  While Indian-Americans gave Obama an 84% approval, Chinese Americans only gave him 56%.  His greatest strength amongst age groups was in the 18 – 34 year group (85%).  The strongest disapproval was found in the 35 – 64 age group (29%).

The strength of support for Obama among Indian Americans is reflected in the fact that their support for Clinton is higher than with other Asian-American communities.  Foreign born Asian-Americans were also more likely to prefer Clinton (43%).  She also leads amongst 65 and older voters (44%)

Meanwhile, a majority of American born Asian-American voters preferred Sanders (54%).  This is also reflected in his 61% support amongst 18 – 34 voters.

Asian-American voter views of the issues also show their support for Democrats.  “I’m pretty convinced from looking at different sources of mass-survey data on Asian Americans’ political attitudes that Asian Americans favor a bigger government with more services,” Janelle Wong, the director of the Asian-American Studies Program at the University of Maryland told the National Review. “The role of government is really a critical point of disagreement between Democrats and Republicans. The GOP will have a hard time winning a majority of Asian Americans if this issue continues to be a core one for Asian Americans.”

The top 5 issues that Asian American registered voters ranked as extremely important were education, health care, terrorism, jobs, and retirement.

This deviates somewhat from priorities among the general electorate, where the major concerns are the economy, terrorism, health care, immigration, and education.

An interesting demographic difference was in the issue of gun control.  While 50% of 65 and older voters think gun control is an important issue, only 25% of the 18 – 34 age voters think it is important.  American born Asian-American voters think gun control is a less important issue.  This could reflect that the American gun culture is gaining ground amongst the younger, more American, voters.

The Clout of the Asian-American Voter

So, why hasn’t the Asian-American voter received more attention?  It is clearly a Democratic voter base.  And, given the 2014 election results that gave the GOP half of their votes, it could be the margin of victory in a close election.

There are three major problems with the Asian-American voter: low turnout, where they live, and communications.

Asian-American voters are more likely to live in urban, safely Democratic areas, where their vote will have less impact.  However, they are found in Nevada and Virginia, which will be key battleground states this year.

Asian-American voters also have very low turnout.  Their turnout is less than Whites or Blacks and about the same as Hispanics.  While some say that this is because many Asian-American immigrants are unused to voting, the turnout rate is virtually the same with native born and immigrant Asian-American voters.

Another problem is communications with the Asian-American voter.  Asian Americans have among the highest rates of limited English proficiency (35%) and languages other than English spoken at home (77%).

43% of Asian-American voters rely upon foreign language, ethnic newspapers for information.  These numbers are higher within the Chinese (60%), Korean (58%), and Vietnamese (72%) communities.  Only 3% of Indians rely upon ethnic newspapers.

Needless to say, the younger Asian-American is more likely to rely upon the internet and social media.

How Will Asian-American Vote This Year?

It is unlikely that the GOP can replicate its 2014 success in the Asian-American community.  Since this group is the fastest growing immigrant group and Trump has made immigration control one of his signature issues, it’s logical to see Clinton winning this group.

However, the Asian-American vote could be critical in two swing states – Virginia and Nevada.  Asian-American voters in these two states are more likely to call themselves conservative than liberal.  If this means that a larger percentage of them may vote for Trump in these two states, it could mean these two states – and the nation – could go for Trump.




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By Luke Coffey and James Phillips
Heritage Foundation
September 7, 2016
Issue Brief #4607

The long-delayed military campaign to liberate Mosul from ISIS occupation is in its early stages. However, as the central government in Baghdad and policymakers in the U.S. will soon find out, the military operation will be the easy part. Washington must encourage Baghdad to prepare a post-liberation political framework for Mosul now in order to cement a lasting political defeat for ISIS and prevent its return to the city. This encouragement should include the following steps:

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By Anthony Cordesman
Center for Strategic and International Studies
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Center for Strategic and International Studies
September 6, 2016

The meeting between President Barack Obama and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on September 4 at the G20 provided the two leaders with their first face-to-face opportunity to discuss the aggravated tensions in the U.S.-Turkish relationship since the July 15 coup attempt.  Obama’s comments at their joint appearance after the meeting made it clear that he wanted to build on the fence-mending efforts of Vice President Joe Biden during his visit to Ankara on August 24. According to the White House transcript, Obama strongly condemned the coup and promised “to cooperate with Turkish authorities to determine how we can make sure that those who carried out these activities are brought to justice,” an obvious reference to the ongoing Turkish extradition request for Fethullah Gulen as the alleged mastermind of the coup attempt.

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The Political Economy of Sectarianism in the Gulf
By Justin Gengler
Carnegie Endowment
August 29, 2016

Arab Gulf rulers face incentives to develop non-economic sources of legitimacy to maintain popular support while maximizing scarce resource revenues. By sowing communal distrust, highlighting threats, and emphasizing their ability to guarantee security, regimes can reinforce domestic backing and dampen pressure for reform more cheaply than by distributing welfare benefits. Survey data from four Gulf states (Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, and Qatar) demonstrate that governments can effectively cow populations into political inaction even as the economic benefits citizens receive are dwindling.

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Foreign Policy Research Iinstitute
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By Jennifer Cafarella
Institute for the Study of War
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The struggle for Aleppo poses an awful threat for the United States. The ongoing battle for what was once Syria’s second-largest city has united two of the most prominent opposition coalitions. Their goal is to defeat Bashar al-Assad’s regime. But there’s one more thing they have in common — neither has ever received significant help from Washington in their joint effort to break a nearly month-long siege of opposition-controlled areas of the city and conquer the rest of it.

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By Nicolas Bouchet
German Marshall Fund
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Three years ago, a military coup ended Egypt’s shaky attempt at transition from decades of dictatorship to democracy. The coup has been followed by a sharp deterioration in human and civil rights in the country. Even before this, though, Egypt was the most important test for US democracy promotion under President Barack Obama as a result of the events since the 2011 revolution. How his administration handled this also illuminates broader points regarding this dimension of US foreign policy. Obama’s initial policy was much in continuity with previous US experience when it comes to democracy promotion and Egypt. Then, as a result of the revolution, there was a genuine but short-lived break from tradition in trying to support the transition. In Obama’s final year in office, however, the United States has returned to the historically mainstream approach of mostly ignoring democracy in Egypt – and in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA).

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Holy War of Words: Growing Saudi-Iranian Tensions
By Simon Henderson
Washington Institute
September 7, 2016

In the coming days, hundreds of thousands of Muslims will visit the Saudi city of Mecca to partake in the annual Hajj pilgrimage. Unlike last year, there will be no Iranians there. Tehran and Riyadh were unable to agree on visa allocations and security arrangements intended to avoid the type of tragic stampede that killed hundreds of pilgrims last time around — an incident in which Iran suffered more victims than any other country. Two days ago, Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei declared that Iranians who were injured last year and subsequently died were “murdered” by the kingdom’s inadequate emergency response. He went on to suggest that Saudi Arabia was not a proper custodian of the holy places — effectively a direct challenge to the legitimacy of the kingdom’s Sunni royal family, since the monarch has been styled “Custodian of the Two Holy Places of Mecca and Medina” since the 1980s.

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