Michelle Steele was born in South Korea and raised in Japan. Last year, she became one of the first Korean American women elected to the US Congress, winning a seat in the House of Representatives. While running for office, he faced the challenges that come with being an immigrant.
“I have a very shy personality, so it’s hard to go out there with my accent and speak in front of people,” said Steele, a Republican who represents California’s 48th district.
Steele’s political involvement reflects the changing face of American voters and the government officials they elect.
Since the Voting Rights Act of 1965 was signed into law, the face of the American voter has gradually changed, while removing barriers preventing African Americans from voting. During the 2020 elections, Asian Americans demonstrated their political prowess in the presidential and congressional races, leading to record turnout across the country.
Demographers and other experts say Asian Americans will continue to grow into a dominant force in American politics.
“Asian Americans have really risen to prominence as a new electoral force,” said Sara Sadhwani, a senior researcher at AAPI data.
Asian American voter turnout reached a historic high of nearly 60% in 2020 According to the US Census Bureau. By a margin of 68% to 28%, Asian Americans voted for Democrat Joe Biden over incumbent President Donald Trump, According to an election eve survey conducted by AAPI (Asian American and Pacific Islander) Civic Engagement Fund and 21 other organizations.
“Over the past several election cycles, we have seen more and more Asian Americans turn to the Democratic Party, and certainly the same happened in 2020,” said Sadhwani.
When the AAPI Civic Engagement Fund asked Asian Americans about the issues that matter most to them, jobs, the economy, and health care always made the list. The talk of the Democrats in 2020 also resonated with many Asian Americans.
According to Eunsuk Lee, director of the AAPI Civic Engagement Fund, the government’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, discrimination and racial justice were other high-ranking issues.
Researchers said the historic increase in Asian American voter turnout in 2020 from 2016 levels was driven by a reaction to a wave of hate incidents against Asians in the US.
“Several studies have looked at the impact of a sense of discrimination, a sense of social exclusion, and how it actually drives Asian Americans to go out and register to participate in elections,” Sadhwani said.
Winning margin: Georgia
Asian American voters increased their turnout in turnout in every battlefield state more than any other minority group, According to Democratic political data firm TargetSmart.
The southern battlefield state of Georgia is an example of how Asian American voters influenced election results in 2020. turnout among Asian American voters was Nearly 62,000 more than in the 2016 presidential election.
“Given that the Biden-Harris ticket led the state by less than 12,000 votes, the AAPI surge was clearly decisive,” said TargetSmart in a newsletter.
“Because of that victory in the presidential election in November, when the Senate elections came out, people paid heavy attention to the AAPI population in Georgia,” said Judy Chu of California, who in 2009 was the first Chinese American elected to Congress. Became a woman
“We actually saw an impressive ground game for Asian Americans to register and go out to vote,” Sadhwani said. “Asian Americans were a part of that narrative of how Georgia flipped from being a Republican stronghold to sending two Democrats to the Senate while simultaneously supporting President Biden.”
In January, Democrats John Osoff and Raphael Warnock swept Georgia’s two US Senate runoffs, flipping control of the Senate from Republican to Democrat.
“Asian Americans are moving from marginal to margin of victory,” Chu said. “I think both the parties had not done much in terms of reaching out to the AAPI voter, but I think that is changing now.”
Asian Americans in Politics
Asian Americans set another record in 2020, with 21 elected to Congress, giving Asians another impetus to the ballot box.
“Every election cycle we have seen an increase in Asian American and Pacific Islander participation, and every time we see Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders on the ballot, it also increases voter turnout,” said Asian American President and CEO Madeline Mielke said. Pacific American Institute for Congressional Studies.
“Not to discount Asian Americans winning in 2020, but as a population, Asian Americans are underrepresented,” said Lee of the AAPI Civic Engagement Fund.
Asians and Pacific Islanders make up 6.1% of the US population but make up only 0.9% of elected officials.
a factor: According to the Pew Research Center and the US CensusOf the , 71% of Asian American adults were not born in the US, some speak limited English according to Chu.
“We are a population where many may not be familiar with the American means of democracy,” Chu said. “It takes a while to get used to it, to know that your voice matters, and especially if you come from countries that don’t have real free and fair elections or maybe where there are no elections, we all know Huh. “
As more Asian Americans enter politics, Asian American voters become more interested and engaged in their campaigns.
“We want to see people who look like us in positions of power on TV, and can spread the message and build coalitions, an ally that is essential to real change,” said Gigi Lee to entrepreneur Andrew Yang. Said during a June campaign rally for. , who ran for mayor of New York City before dropping out of the race later that month.
Since Biden took office six months ago, Asian Americans have passed a new hate crime law that addresses the rise in violence against them. However, not everyone is optimistic that positive change will continue.
Kevin Liu, another voter who attended the Andrew Yang event, said, “We see there is growing Asian hatred. We are being recognized more by politicians, but I think once it subsides, we will probably once Then you’ll be in the shadows.” .
The Pew Research Center estimates that Asian Americans will become the largest group of immigrants to the US by 2055.
“It’s no longer a population that is quiet and not going to vote. They came out in record numbers in 2020 and you don’t go back once they’re active,” Lee said.