By Asma Khalid
In 2012, nearly three-quarters of Asian-American voters went for President Obama. But, rewind — 20 years prior — and you’ll find fewer than a third voted Democrat.
In fact, in the span of two decades, the Asian-American vote in presidential elections has gone from being solidly Republican, to increasingly Democrat.
Analysts have described the Asian-American political shift as the most dramatic swing in recent presidential voting behavior across any demographic. But how did it happen?
It’s a complicated story. Asian-Americans are the fastest-growing racial group in the country, but they’re also the least likely to vote. Nearly half (47 percent) consider themselves politically independent.
‘Reagan Was My Hero’
Genie Nguyen came to the U.S. in 1975 as a refugee from Vietnam. These days, the petite nonprofit worker is the president of Voice of Vietnamese Americans, an organization that focuses on civic engagement and voter registration.
Nguyen is deeply engaged in politics but evasive when she talks about party politics. She repeatedly insists that for Vietnamese people, voting is not about being a “Democrat or a Republican,” it’s about issues.
But her personal story symbolizes a trend demographers are seeing across the Asian-American community. Nguyen lives in Prince William County, Va., a bellwether in a changing political state.
Genie Nguyen came to the U.S. from Vietnam in 1975 and remembers voting for President Reagan. But, she said, she now feels Republicans have “gone too far to the right.”
When she first became a citizen, she voted for the Republican presidential candidate.
“I remember I did vote for Reagan,” she said at a Vietnamese mini mall that offers everything from jasmine rice to jade jewelry. “Reagan was my hero because many Vietnamese at the time, we were very much victims of communism.”
But, she said, the party has changed.
“I think the Republican has gone too far to the right, and they are not the Republicans of the Reagans anymore,” she said.
But voter concerns have changed, too. It’s not communism that Vietnamese voters are worried about; these days, Nguyen said, they’re concerned about jobs, affordable health care and the economy.
“Many are working low, minimum-wage jobs, so we really care for the higher, better minimum wage,” she said. Read more
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