Asian Americans: the “swingiest swing voters”? Perhaps. Our growing population has won important victories in the 2012 elections.


The real winners of Election 2012: Asian Americans

The victors have been declared, the dust has settled, and now clarity is forming about the real results of the elections for Asian Americans. The verdict? We have emerged as a political force to contend with.

AAPIs are the margin of victory
     Asian American Pacific Islanders are the fastest growing minority group in the US, increasing 46 percent from 2000-2010, and the nation is paying attention. Our fastest growth was in three key swing states: Nevada, New Hampshire and North Carolina. In fact, one in six AAPIs lives in a swing state, and over a third of us are swing voters.
    In California, we are the “swingiest swing voters.” We make up 11% of the electorate, but are a stunning 20% of the state’s swing voters, so our vote packs a disproportionate punch. This, combined with widening partisanship and shrinking margins of victory, has astute observers pointing to the growing clout of the AAPI vote. 
    “We are the margin of victory,” says Rep. Mike Honda (D-CA). Indeed, AAPIs voted 3 to 1 for President Obama (4 to 1 in California), translating to 1.7M votes—over half of his winning 3.38M popular vote margin. We voted more Democratic than traditionally Democratic Latinos (71%) and Jews (70%), second only to African Americans in our support for Obama.   
    But our voting decisions don't necessarily adhere to party lines. Nearly three-quarters of AAPIs are immigrants, and a fifth of our votes were cast by first-time voters.
    Rep. Honda, whose 17th congressional district of Silicon Valley is now the first AAPI-majority district in the mainland US, says of AAPI voters, “They’re not as married to the party as they are to the issues. They’re out there to be courted. If you talk to them, they generally will move with you.”

As goes the West, so goes the rest
    As national demographics become more like California’s, it's wise to keep tabs on the trends at home. State elections have resulted in a Democratic supermajority. The 38 elected Democrats are a diverse cross-section including many women, AAPIs, Latinos, African Americans, Jews and at least one gay representative. Meanwhile, the 15 Republicans are all white men. This is an issue Republicans acknowledge and are taking steps to address.
    Asian American Democrats now fill the seats of the state controller, the attorney general and the mayors of Oakland and San Francisco. Mayor Ed Lee who beat out four other Asian Americans says, “The community now realizes that if you don’t have the seat at the table, you’re probably going to be on the menu.
    As goes the West, so goes the rest? Maybe so. A dozen AAPIs haven been elected to Congress, breaking records and recording many firsts. Among them are the first Asian American woman (and first Buddhist) senator, and the first Asian American woman from New York, the first Hindu, the first LGBT person of color, and the first Thai American to serve in Congress. While 12 is a far cry from the 31 seats AAPIs should hold to represent our 6% of the US population, these victories are a cause for celebration.
 

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