More Asian Americans are running for office than ever before after Kamala Harris’ success.
Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders had the highest increases in voter turnout for any racial or ethnic group from 2016 to 2020 with Indian Americans recording a 9 percentage point increase, according to AAPI Data,
In 2020 presidential election, Indian Americans and Japanese Americans reported the highest rates of voting, at 71% and 66%, respectively, among adult citizens, says the leading publisher of demographic data and policy research about the community.
For Indian Americans, this was a 9 percentage point increase over 2016 while for Japanese Americans, the increase was a modest 4 percent, Karthick Ramakrishnan, the director of AAPI Data, wrote in a blog post.
The 2020 presidential election saw a major increase in voter engagement among Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, building on record gains in voting in the 2018 midterm elections where voter registration and turnout jumped across every segment of the AAPI community, including by nativity, age, gender, and geography.
READ: 116 lawmakers ask Biden for an AAPI Cabinet Secretary (January 2, 2021)
2020 saw even more remarkable gains, according to data released from the US Current Population Survey. Voter turnout jumped from 49.3% among Asian Americans in 2014 to 59.5% in 2020, Ramakrishnan noted.
That increase was the second-highest for any racial or ethnic group in the country, whether measured in percentage point terms (a 11-point increase), or in proportional terms (a one-fifth increase over a baseline of 49.3).
The only group with higher gains in voter turnout was Pacific Islanders, whose voting rates among adult citizens increased from from 41.2% in 2016 to 55.7% in 2020—a 14-point gain in absolute terms, and a one-third increase in proportional terms over the 2016 baseline.
Ramakrishnan told NPR there was a stark increase in voting among second-generation immigrants, who were born in the United States to immigrant parents.
“This second generation is coming of political age and especially during this moment of Covid and the increase in anti-Asian racism and hate incidents, you are seeing a kind of political consciousness that’s forming that will likely last a generation,” he was quoted as saying.
“So I think looking ahead, we’re going to see a lot more civic engagement, political activism among the younger Asian American population, and especially given the circumstances of the past year.”
Alongside the increased turnout, more Asian Americans are running for office than ever before. Ramakrishnan pointed out that when Asian candidates run for office and win, it encourages other potential candidates to come off the sidelines and either run themselves or become donors.
“Given the success of Kamala Harris as the highest-ranking Asian American elected official, as well as senators and members of Congress that have done very well over the last decade, we will likely see many more Asian Americans running for office in the future inspired by those examples,” he said.
AAPI DATA also found significant increases in voting across lines of gender, nativity, and age.
Turnout among AAPI men jumped from 48% in 2016 to 58% among eligible voters in 2020, and from 48% to 61% among AAPI women during the same period (the gender gap in 2020 was not statistically significant at the 95% confidence interval given the sample size).
READ: Health, jobs, economy top concerns of older Asian American voters (October 26, 2020)
Voting increases were also dramatic among younger adults, age 18 to 34, whose voting rates jumped from 41% in 2016 to 56% in 2020.
This disproportionately high jump among younger voters helped to erase half of the voting gap by age among AAPI voters found in 2016. Voting increased for all other age groups, and the voting rate among 35 to 49 year olds reached parity with those age 50 to 64.
Finally, voting among the native born and foreign born increased in a similar manner, from 43% to 54% among US-born Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, and from 52% to 64% among AAPIs who are naturalized citizens.
These nativity patterns in voting are long-standing, and reflect the fact that naturalized citizens tend to be significantly older than US-born AAPIs eligible to vote, Ramakrishnan wrote.