Analysis explores how religion and ethnicity shape the Asian-American vote

August 30, 2012

As the nation's fastest-growing immigrant group, Asian Americans are likely to be a key constituency in the 2012 presidential election, but this community is far from a monolithic voting bloc, says Russell Jeung, associate professor of Asian American studies at San Francisco State University.

Jeung has published an analysis of Asian American voting patterns in the 2008 presidential election, including a breakdown of nine ethnic groups and 11 that make up the Asian American vote.

"Usually people act in a racial bloc or a religious bloc," Jeung said. "They have a sense of a shared fate and identity that affects how they vote. For Asian Americans, it's more complicated as they have more cross-cutting affiliations than most Americans."

While other ethnic groups in the U.S. may be guided by a shared religion, Asian Americans don't have a common faith and 27 percent don't follow any religion. The community's diversity, Jeung says, makes it difficult for Asian Americans to mobilize as a united group and their lack of partisanship may also contribute to low levels of voting among this demographic.

"There's this puzzle of why Asian Americans are less politically involved despite their high levels of education and income," said Jeung, whose analysis was published Aug. 29 in "Religion, Race, and 's New Democratic Pluralism."

Jeung says that many Asian Americans feel disenfranchised, which has had a chilling effect on their involvement in politics. Meanwhile, have not invested much time or money in targeted outreach to these voters.

"Asian Americans' diverse backgrounds may also explain their low levels of voting," Jeung said. "Some have come from non-democratic societies and haven't grown up with the idea of ," Jeung said. "Others are recent and aren't eligible to vote."

While Asian Americans were more likely to support Barack Obama in the 2008 compared to voters with similar incomes and religious affiliations, there were differences in the voting patterns of Asian American subgroups.

Jeung's analysis found that Asian Americans who are agnostic, atheist, Hindu and Muslim were more likely to hold liberal political views and were more likely to vote for Obama. Protestants and Catholics who were more likely to hold politically conservative views also supported Obama. Vietnamese Americans, many of whom are Catholic, were more likely to vote for John McCain.

With large Asian American populations clustered in swing states such as Virginia, Nevada and Florida, Jeung believes this demographic will becoming a growing force in American politics, and it's not just the size of the population that matters.

"Time in the U.S. makes a big difference," Jeung says. "As Asian Americans become more established in the U.S., I think we'll start to see them forming a stronger pan-ethnic identity. Individuals will start to see that what happens to one Asian American happens to another, and they will start to come together over shared concerns and values."

Explore further: Study compares the racial consciousness of black and Asian-Americans

Related Stories

Biracial Asian Americans and mental health

August 17, 2008

A new study of Chinese-Caucasian, Filipino-Caucasian, Japanese-Caucasian and Vietnamese-Caucasian individuals concludes that biracial Asian Americans are twice as likely as monoracial Asian Americans to be diagnosed with ...

Study offers first look at Asian Americans' glaucoma risk

April 4, 2011

It's generally known that African Americans have the highest risk for glaucoma (about 12 percent) among racial groups in the United States. They are more than twice as likely as non-Hispanic white Americans (5.6 percent) ...

Your culture may influence your perception of death

May 24, 2011

Contemplating mortality can be terrifying. But not everyone responds to that terror in the same way. Now, a new study which will be published in an upcoming issue of Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for ...

Recommended for you

The oldest plesiosaur was a strong swimmer

December 14, 2017

Plesiosaurs were especially effective swimmers. These long extinct "paddle saurians" propelled themselves through the oceans by employing "underwater flight"—similar to sea turtles and penguins. Paleontologist from the ...

Averaging the wisdom of crowds

December 12, 2017

The best decisions are made on the basis of the average of various estimates, as confirmed by the research of Dennie van Dolder and Martijn van den Assem, scientists at VU Amsterdam. Using data from Holland Casino promotional ...


Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

1.9 / 5 (13) Aug 30, 2012
The community's diversity, Jeung says, makes it difficult for Asian Americans to mobilize as a united group

Or makes them more likely to vote according to their own interests rather than those dictated to them by "community leaders" and "community organizers". Maybe that also explains low voter turn out: the candidates on offer are pandering to the community instead of providing intelligent policy and it turns them off in a non-partisan manner.
1 / 5 (10) Aug 30, 2012
Asian-Americans are more likely influenced by their peers who are not necessarily other Asian-Americans.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.