The latest Census analysis confirms that the Asian American electorate is on the rise. In line with our estimates from the “Behind the Numbers”
report released earlier this year, the Census Bureau
shows that more than 3.9 million Asian Americans voted in the 2012 elections, accounting for nearly 3% of all voters. This was an increase of more than 500,000 voters from 2008.
Below, we highlight three important aspects about the Asian American electorate: continued rates of rapid growth at the national level; growing electoral relevance of the population in many states; and the ongoing need for survey data with Asian language support.
Key findings at the national level from the report and the associated data include:
- The growth of the Asian American electorate was relatively steady between 2004-8 and 2008-12 (an increase of about 589,000 and 547,000 in each period). By contrast, the number of white voters rose by about 475,000 between 2004-8, and declined by about 2 million between 2008-12.
- The biggest growth in the Asian American electorate was between 2000 and 2004, with 723,000 new voters. However, 2004 was also a year that saw an increase of 10 million white voters, thereby muting the electoral affect of Asian American’s growth.
- The Asian American share of the voting population has been steadily increasing, from 1.8 percent of all voters in 2000 and 2.2 percent in 2004, to 2.6 percent in 2008, and 2.9 percent in 2012.
- Voter registration remains a significant hurdle for Asian Americans, with only 56 percent of adult citizens registered to vote in 2012. This compares to registration rates of 72 percent and 73 percent among whites and blacks, respectively, and 59 percent among Latinos.
- Once registered, however, Asian Americans turn out in rates comparable to other groups: 84 percent for Asian Americans, 82 percent for Latinos, 87 percent for whites, and 91 percent for blacks.
State data is in line with the national data, showing that the Asian American electorate is an increasingly important voting bloc.
Asian American voters in California and New York, states with the two largest Asian American communities, turned out at or above the national rate. 84% of registered Asian American voters in California and more than 86 percent in voters in New York voted in 2012 election.
In the 15 states that APIAVote, AAJC, and other partners supported organizations to increase civic participation, Asian American voters turned out at or above 84% in almost all 15 states. Asian Americans in Georgia and Washington turned out at about 95%, nearly 93% in Ohio, above 89% in Minnesota and Florida, and above 86% n Illinois, Michigan, and Virginia. Of the 15 states, Texas had the lowest turnout at 71.6% and Nevada at 81.7%, although these are all within the survey’s margin of error.
While we are pleased with the latest Census Bureau analysis, we remain concerned that it may not tell the full story of the Asian American electorate because its survey is conducted only in English and Spanish. For example, in “Behind the Numbers,”
where more than 40% of the Asian American and Pacific Islander registered voters surveyed responded in an Asian language, we found turnout among those who had difficulty speaking English was 9% lower (75%) than those who did not (84%).
“Behind the Numbers”
indicated that voter turnout varied significantly by ethnicity. For example turnout among Laotians and Cambodians was lowest in 2012 at 40% and 62% while turnout was highest among Hmong and Japanese at 89%.