Posted on July 10, 2023

Will Asian Americans Retreat from Democrats?

Seth Moskowitz, Liberal Patriot, July 9, 2023

Democrats lost significant ground among minority populations over the last decade. Between the 2012 and 2020 presidential elections, black voters moved six points towards Republicans and Latinos shifted eight. The exception to this trend was Asian American voters, who inched one point towards Democrats over those eight years.

In 2022, this silver lining dulled appreciably. New data from the analytic firm Catalist shows that Democrats struggled with Asian American voters in the midterms. The demographic lurched seven percent towards Republicans in just two years—more than any other major ethnic category. And while Asian Americans, who make up around four percent of the voting electorate, do still favor Democrats by about a 20-point margin, the shift in 2022 reveals that Democrats have a problem on their hands.


What makes the 2022 midterms so noteworthy, then, is that they represent a break from the decades-long trend toward Democrats. And when you drill down into the numbers, it becomes clear that two issues in particular are responsible for the Asian American backslide toward Republicans: public safety and education.

Let’s start with the former. As violent crime surged in cities throughout the country in 2020 and 2021, the Democrats in charge of many of those cities largely failed to respond with an effective message or policy agenda. Rather than prosecuting criminals and getting repeat offenders off of the streets, many Democrats took a “root causes” approach that came across as quixotic and ineffective. Moreover, following George Floyd’s murder and the subsequent Black Lives Matter protests, many people, fairly or not, began to see the Democratic Party as anti-police. For many Asian Americans who live in urban areas, the visible erosion of public safety was unacceptable—and they blamed Democrats for letting it happen.

The first sign that this could pose an electoral problem for Democrats came in early 2022 with the effort to recall San Francisco’s progressive District Attorney, Chesa Boudin. Simmering fury about Boudin’s handling of crime and his seemingly indifferent attitude towards the victims of crime, many of whom were Asian American, eventually boiled over into outrage. And while every major racial demographic favored recalling Boudin, Asian Americans were by far the most supportive, with around 67 percent supporting the recall and only 13 percent opposing.

Frustration about crime wasn’t isolated to San Francisco. Asked in a national poll ahead of the midterms how important crime was to determining their vote, 85 percent of Asian Americans said it was “extremely” or “very” important. {snip}

The other issue most responsible for Asian Americans’ rightward shift is education. For many Asian Americans, especially those who are immigrants or low-income, education represents the step ladder for reaching a better life for themselves or their children. In recent years, however, Democrats have begun to fold up that stepladder in the name of racial equity. Across the country—from San Francisco to Boston to New York City and beyond—public school systems have tried to restructure the admissions process for “gifted and talented” schools and programs. By replacing academic assessments with lottery systems or other subjective evaluations, these proposals would dramatically reduce the number of Asian American students admitted, sometimes by as much as 40 or 50 percent.