The Asian American electorate is expected to double in the coming decades, making it one of the fastest growing constituencies in the country. There are currently 5.9 million Asian Americans registered to vote but that number could jump to 12.2 million by 2040, giving them greater influence on the outcome of local and national elections. A 2014 midterm election poll found that 40% of the Asian American electorate did not identify with either party, making them a likely demographic target for both major parties in future elections.
The number of Asian Americans is expected to grow from 20.5 million in 2015 to 35.7 million in 2040 from a combination of growing numbers of natural born citizens and new naturalized immigrants. At that time, nearly one-in-ten Americans will be Asian American. The coming years will also see more Asian Americans in the United States reach voting age, as a large portion of that demographic is currently under 18. By 2040, Asian Americans will comprise 7% of all registered voters in the US, an increase from the current level of 4%. That 3-point swing will give the Asian American voter bloc greater ability to impact national and state elections. This all represents a continuation of a long-standing trend, as Asian Americans have already been the fastest growing demographic in the country, increasing more than 128% since 1996.
Asian American voters still lag behind the electoral participation rates of other groups like white and black voters, though they were comparable to the Hispanic turnout in the most recent midterm and presidential elections. About 3.6 million Asian Americans remain unregistered to vote, and registration rates are 12 to 15 points behind the national average. In California for example, Asian Americans made up just 7.4% of the vote in 2014 but were 13.3% of the state’s population. Nationally, the Asian American electorate did have the highest growth in participation among all groups since the last midterm, accounting for 3% of all voters in 2014.
While the electorate will double by 2040, the impact of Asian American voters is already being felt in elections across the country. In the last two presidential elections President Obama received 62% and 73% of the Asian American vote in 2008 and 2012, respectively. In addition, Asian Americans were influential in the outcome of the 2014 Virginia Senate Race as they backed Mark Warner over Ed Gillespie by 68% to 29%, a margin of support that was much greater than the margin of victory in that race. Additionally, Asian Americans are increasingly using their wallets to impact elections, as they equaled white voters for the highest rate of donation to political campaigns in the last presidential election. As the population outpaces other race groups and the electorate grows, Asian Americans will continue having a greater impact on elections and both Democrats and Republicans will be vying for their support.
Nate Schlabach is a Research Intern at the East-West Center in Washington and a recent graduate of the Center for Justice and Peacebuilding at Eastern Mennonite University.