Among eligible voters, Asian Americans are the fastest growing racial or ethnic group

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Voters cast their ballot on Election Day in November 2018 in New York City. (Joana Toro / VIEWPress / Corbis via Getty Images)

Asian Americans are the fastest growing eligible voter segment among major racial and ethnic groups in the United States. More than 11 million people will be able to vote this year, representing almost 5% of the country’s eligible voters (for this analysis, U.S. citizens aged 18 and over). They are also the only major racial or ethnic group in which naturalized citizens – rather than people born in the United States – make up the majority of eligible voters, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of Census Bureau data.

From 2000 to 2020, the number of eligible Asian American voters more than doubled, increasing by 139%. Hispanic electorate grew at a similar rate (121%), but black and white electorates grew much more slowly (33% and 7%).

Naturalized immigrants have been the source of the rapid growth of the Asian electorate. (When an immigrant naturalizes and becomes a U.S. citizen, they are eligible to vote in federal elections.) Between 2000 and 2018 – the most recent year available – the number of eligible voters for Asian immigrants doubled from from 3.3 million to 6.9 million. In 2018, naturalized citizens made up about two-thirds of all eligible Asian-American voters.

This article is part of an ongoing exploration of eligible voters in the United States. For this project, we analyzed the detailed demographics and geographic distribution of Asian Americans who are eligible to vote in the 2020 presidential election. In this analysis, Asians are identified as people who report that their race is Asian or any other detailed Asian group, such as Chinese, Japanese, or Pakistani, but does not include people who identify only as Pacific Islanders. The term “eligible voters” refers to persons 18 years of age and over who are US citizens. All references to Asian, Black, and White electorates refer to their unique race and non-Hispanic populations. Eligible Hispanic voters are of any race.

The analysis is based on data from the American Community Survey of the US Census Bureau and the 2000 US Decennial Census provided through Integrated Public Use Microdata Series (IPUMS) of the University of Minnesota. Data on political party affiliation comes from AAPI Data’s 2018 survey of Asian American voters.

About six in ten Asians in the United States are eligible to vote in November electionsEven though Asian Americans are expected to represent a record 4.7% of eligible voters in the United States this year, the share is still lower than their share of the country’s total population (5.6%). The difference is in part due to the 4.5 million adult Asian immigrants who are not citizens and therefore cannot vote. This group includes permanent residents (green card holders) and those in the process of becoming permanent residents; those in the United States on temporary visas; and illegal immigrants. These groups make up about a quarter of the overall Asian population in the United States (24%). In the United States, an additional 3.5 million Asians, or 19% of its total population, are under the age of 18, making them ineligible to vote. In total, about six in ten (57%) of the country’s 18.2 million Asian Americans are eligible voters.

Demographics and Party Affiliation of Eligible Asian American Voters

Chinese Americans, Filipino Americans, and Indian Americans are the largest original groups of the Asian American electorateThe Asian electorate in the United States is a diverse group, with eligible voters having their roots in countries in East and Southeast Asia and the Indian subcontinent. Only six original groups – Chinese, Filipino, Indian, Vietnamese, Korean and Japanese – represent the majority of Asian American voters. This trend closely mirrors the Asian American population as a whole: the same six origin groups account for 85% of all Asian Americans.

A 2018 survey conducted by AAPI data found that party identification varies depending on the origin group. For example, Americans of Vietnamese origin are more likely than Americans of Asian origin overall to identify as Republicans (42% versus 28%). In contrast, American Indians are the most likely to be Democrats of any Asian-born group, with 50% identifying as Democrats and only 18% as Republicans.

Eligible Asian American voters are scattered across the country, but more than half live in just three states. California alone holds 35% of the Asian American electorate (3.6 million). The state with the second highest number of eligible Asian American voters is New York (920,000), followed by Texas (698,000).

Meanwhile, it’s only in Hawaii that Asian Americans make up a larger share of eligible voters than any racial or ethnic group. They represent 38% of the state’s eligible voters, by far the highest share in the country. California comes second with 14%.

Hawaii is also the state where the highest share of Asian Americans are eligible to vote (73%). It is followed by the District of Columbia (69%), Nevada (66%) and California (62%).

Eligible Asian American voters stand out from those of other racial and ethnic groups in several ways. About seven in ten (71%) say they speak only English at home or say they speak English ‘very well’ – lower than the proportion who say this among Hispanics (80%), Blacks (98 %) and whites (99%) eligible voters.

Among Asian American voters, English proficiency varies widely by origin group, as does the share of college graduatesBut there are considerable variations in English proficiency depending on the group of origin. The vast majority (91%) of eligible Japanese American voters report speaking English at least “very well”. Among Burmese American voters, by contrast, only about half (49%) say the same. The origins of these two origin groups may help explain the disparity. Most Americans of Japanese descent (80%) were born in the United States, while most American Burmese (85%) are immigrants, many of whom are recent immigrants and entered the country as refugees. .

Among eligible voters, Asian Americans have the highest levels of education of all major racial and ethnic groups. Half (50%) have a bachelor’s degree or higher, a higher proportion than eligible White (34%), Black (20%) or Hispanic (18%) voters.

Educational attainment varies widely among different groups of Asian origin in the United States. Eligible American Indian voters are by far the most likely to have at least a bachelor’s degree (65%). By comparison, only 19% of eligible Cambodian American voters have the same level of education, the lowest share of any group of Asian American descent.

Eligible Asian voters in the United States have an annual median family income of $ 105,000, the highest of any racial or ethnic group. Eligible white, Hispanic, and black voters all have median household incomes of less than $ 80,000.

Among groups of Asian American descent, United States Indian voters ($ 139,000) have the highest median household income, while Burmese Americans ($ 69,000) have the lowest.

The median age of eligible Asian American voters is 46, making them older than eligible black (44) and Hispanic (38) voters, but younger than white voters (51). However, the ages of Asian American voters differ significantly between those born in the United States and those born abroad. Asian voters born in the United States are 20 years younger on average than those born abroad (31 versus 51).

Among the Asian American electorate, Hmong Americans are the youngest group, with a median age of 32. Japanese Americans are the oldest, with a median age of 59.

Check out a detailed table of eligible Asian voters by state below (or open as a PDF).

Detailed data on eligible Asian American voters by state

Abby budiman is a former research analyst specializing in race and ethnicity research at the Pew Research Center.


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