How Asian-Americans Became Progressives

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One of the most undercovered stories of recent years has been the increasing importance of Asian-Americans as a progressive group. In the 2012 election, Asians raised their share of voters by a percentage point, about half of the overall increase in minority vote share. Moreover, they contributed significantly to increased minority voting in many swing states, including Minnesota and Michigan in the midwest and, particularly, Colorado and Nevada in the southwest. In Colorado, Asians increased their share of the voting electorate by 3 points, accounting for most of the increase in minority voting in that state. And in Nevada, where the share of minority voters increased by 5 points, that increase was split evenly between Latinos and Asians.

But Asians did not just turn out in larger numbers, they also sharply increased their level of support for Obama. In 2012, Asians supported Obama by a staggering 73-26, compared to 62-35 in 2008. This is a remarkable trajectory for a group that, back in 1992, supported George H.W. Bush over Bill Clinton by a strong 54-30 margin. In every election since then, Asians have increased their support for the Democratic candidate, including elections like 2004 where most other groups, even progressive ones, were going in the opposite direction:

What drives conservatives nuts about this trend is that Asians are doing so well economically. They have the highest average educational level and median household income of any race-ethnic group in the country, including whites. In the simplistic conservative view of the world, Asians’ material success means they should hate taxes, despise the government and vote Republican.

Wrong on all counts. Far from turning their backs on government, Asian Americans say they want more of what government can provide. In a massive study of Asians released last July, the Pew Research Center found that, by 55-36, Asians preferred a bigger government providing more services to a smaller government providing fewer services. This is only one result among many that confirm the strongly progressive nature of America’s burgeoning Asian population.

The role that Asian Americans play in our politics will only increase in coming years, as they are now provide the largest share of America’s new immigrants. And by current evidence, that should be one more factor pushing the country in a more progressive direction.