The Influential Voter Group That Both Parties Are Ignoring

July 25th 2016

Tricia Tongco

Donald Trump has surged to a dead heat with Hillary Clinton in the polls following a post-Republican National Convention bump, making the 2016 race for the Oval Office a real nail biter.

Given the tight race, one of the most influential yet overlooked factors could be a rising bloc of voters: Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.

This group, known as AAPIs, is the third-largest minority voting bloc — behind Hispanics and African Americans — at 6 percent of the population and 26 percent of the foreign-born population, according to the Pew Research Center.

Asian Americans have been the fastest-growing share of voters over the last five U.S. presidential elections, increasing from 1.7 million voters in 1996 to 3.9 million in 2012.

Yet, it seems that neither the Democratic nor the Republican Party has realized the power of this growing voting bloc. In 2012, 69 percent of Asian American voters reported that no one, not party representatives nor community organizations, contacted them during the 2012 election.

During this election, Asian American voters make up a vital electorate in swing states such as Nevada, Virginia, North Carolina, Colorado, Ohio and Florida, reports Reuters. Dilawar Syed, the co-founder and vice chairman of the AAPI Victory Fund, a super PAC with the goal of improving the low registration of Asian Americans, told Reuters:

"If this community were to turn out more, it can actually swing the election."

What issues do Asian American and Pacific Islander voters care about?

While AAPIs are incredibly diverse, comprising 20 distinct ethnic groups and vast socioeconomic disparities, there are certain issues they agree are most important, according to a 2016 Asian American voter survey:

  • Education, 48 percent
  • Health care, 47 percent
  • Threat of terrorist attacks, 47 percent
  • Jobs and the economy, 45 percent
  • Security of retirement, 40 percent
  • Gun control, 40 percent

Who are Asian Americans most likely to vote for in this election?

The survey data shows that Asian Americans are increasingly identifying as Democrats, with Hillary Clinton garnering the highest net favorability and Trump viewed “very unfavorably.”

Although, the general electorate differs slightly from AAPIs on which issues are most important, with the economy just in front of health care and terrorism, the Democratic Party’s stances generally align with the issues AAPIs care about, including one that might affect the outcome of this election: anti-immigration views.

Young Asian Americans (ages 18 to 34) are key here, as the survey shows they display the strongest reaction against such exclusionary rhetoric.

It's important to note that while President Barack Obama has been in office, his government has deported more than 2.5 million people, which is up 23 percent from George W. Bush’s tenure. When it comes to the current presidential candidates, though, Trump stands out.

He has made vitriolic statements about immigrants, namely Latinos and Muslims, stating Mexican immigrants are criminals and rapists and calling for a ban on Muslim immigration. But it’s easy to see how Trump's statements could affect anyone who has immigrant parents or relatives: