November 06, 2022

The Role of AAPI Voters In Midterms

Written by: Esha Banerjee

This Tuesday, November 8, voters will line around the block to commence the long-awaited midterms. With all 435 House seats, 35 senate seats, and 36 gubernatorial positions on the ballot, these midterms will undoubtedly change state and local politics. The impact is even more substantial considering the current division in Congress. It is teetering between a Democratic or Republican majority- the Senate has a 50 to 48 Republican to Democrat ratio, while the House holds a 224 to 213 Democrat to Republican ratio, with 3 vacant seats. Clearly, the upcoming midterms have great significance for U.S. citizens, but what do they mean for Asian Americans specifically? How will the issues at stake affect them, and how might this sway their votes?

According to Pew Research Center, more than 13.3 million Asian Americans will be able to vote during this midterm cycle. Though this number might seem inconsequential considering the total number of eligible voters (240 million during the 2020 presidential election), there is also the factor of how many citizens will actually vote. After all, during the last midterms in 2018, there was roughly a 50% turnout, and even this seemingly low percentage was the highest midterm election turnout since 1914. 

However, Asian Americans are considered to be a very politically active group - from data gathered by the firm TargetSmart, Asian Americans, more than any other minority, increased the turnout at polls in every battleground state. They also had the highest mail-in voting rate in 2020. And not only has their voter turnout grown in recent years, but the number of Asian Americans being elected to Congress has also increased alongside it. Undoubtedly, Asian Americans have made great strides in U.S. politics, whether it be participation or representation. Still, there is much more progress to be made, as though Asian Americans account for 6.1% of the U.S. population, they only constitute 0.9% of elected officials. This lack of political representation could be an incentive for Asian Americans to go vote in the upcoming midterms. 

Typically, Asian Americans are more affiliated with the Democratic Party. During the 2020 election, the U.S. Census Bureau recorded that Asian Americans voted for current President Joe Biden over previous President Donald Trump by a margin of 68% to 28%. A notable factor in this was Trump’s use of xenophobic language towards Asians during the pandemic, which contributed to the wave of Anti-Asian hate across America. However, during these midterms, this precedent could change. 

As Asian Americans have typically leaned left in the past, the Republican party is now attempting to sway Asian voters to their side, as they have recognized the decisive role their votes will play during these midterms. Again, Asian Americans can make a crucial difference in battleground areas, which is why both parties are attempting to win over this group, with Republicans especially trying to implement this strategy. However, even with these efforts, according to the most recent 2022 Asian American Voter Survey, in the past year, 52% of respondents said they had not been contacted by the Democratic party, while 60% said the Republican party had not contacted them. This inefficient outreach by both parties could affect how Asian Americans vote during this election.

The Asian American Voter Survey also provided valuable information on what issues Asian Americans are most focused on. The issues the respondents listed were healthcare, jobs and the economy, crime, education, and the environment. Another notable statistic was how many respondents were concerned about experiencing hate crimes and other forms of discrimination - a substantial 73%. Many stated that issues like healthcare, gun control, the environment, voting rights, and racism are better handled by Democrats, while issues related to the economy and crime were more divided regarding which party was better handling them. Both parties will have to wait to see how these issues might affect the votes of Asian Americans.

As the midterms commence, it is also vital to acknowledge that the Asian American community is a diverse group with different ethnicities, backgrounds, and languages and that they might not take similar stances on all issues. Both the Democrat and Republican parties should account for this and not group all Asian Americans together. The Asian American community is composed of many distinctive and unique cultures, and it is necessary for politicians to treat them as such.