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Not Much of a Red Wave Among Asians

Many Asian-Americans are natural conservatives, but that has yet to translate into Republican votes.

(Photo by ANDREA RENAULT/AFP via Getty Images)

On Monday, the New York Times morning newsletter had the headline: “Asian Americans, Shifting Right.” The accompanying article showed a 23-point shift toward Republicans in majority-Asian precincts of New York City between 2018 and 2022. 

Reporter Jason Kao named as possible reasons for this shift a rise in violent crime as well as proposed changes to admissions policies at the city’s selective high schools aimed at increasing black and Hispanic enrollment, which would have come at the expense of the Asian students who now predominate there.


Can Republicans expect to ride to victory in coming elections on the strength of their gains in the Asian vote? I wouldn’t count on it.

First of all, even in the elections where the Times says Asian voters moved right, they still favored Democrats nationally by huge margins, 68 to 30 and 64 to 32 in 2020 and 2022. A 38-point Democratic advantage is smaller than the 50-point advantage in 2004, the 56-point advantage in 2012, or the 61-point advantage in 2016—but it is still lopsided two to one.

The shift in New York City was also concentrated mainly among East Asians, according to number-cruncher Ryan Girdusky. South Asian neighborhoods did not show the same swing.

These right-leaning Asian voters were also “disproportionately working-class,” the Times admits—shop owners in Chinatown, not college-educated professionals in the suburbs. Those Asian voters have been much less willing to defect to the GOP.

Incidentally, this is the same pattern observed among Hispanics in their shifts to the right in 2016 and 2020. As TAC’s post-election analysis showed, Trump did best “not among the most assimilated, white-identifying Hispanics [but] in the communities that were most Hispanic,” such as border counties of Texas and rural areas. The hope that earning enough money to care about lower taxes would turn Democratic ethnic groups into Republicans has not been borne out.


So the rightward swing that the Times identified was concentrated in certain subgroups, namely East Asians and the working class, and was relative to a baseline of massive Democratic support. Not much for Republicans to hang their hats on.

Could the GOP ever win over those middle-class and professional Asian voters? Maybe the path to success lies in emphasizing those issues where their values align with those of Republicans: law and order; schools that teach academics instead of baroque sexualities and critical race theory; and meritocracy instead of diversity mandates.

That sounds a lot like the campaign of Glenn Youngkin, who was elected governor of Virginia in 2021 as a moderate, pro-business Republican who promised to keep CRT out of schools and attacked his opponent for being soft on crime. In theory, he should have done well with Asian voters, who are a major bloc in Virginia’s northern counties.

Except that exit polls showed that Youngkin lost the Asian vote by more than 30 points. He didn’t even improve on Donald Trump’s 2020 performance among Asians in Virginia.

The truth is that Asian voters lean strongly to the left in every English-speaking democracy where they have migrated. In Australia, Indian voters favor left-wing parties by more than 30 points. The gap is even bigger among South Asian voters in Canada. Chinese voters in Canada lean left by a similar margin. Asian voters consistently favor the Labour Party in the United Kingdom.

If the same massive left-wing tilt is seen again and again, regardless of whether a country’s conservative party has neglected Asian voters or courted them assiduously, then perhaps there is a limit to how much the Republican Party can realistically do to move the needle.

The Asian vote is the fastest growing in the United States. Our Asian population nearly doubled between 2000 and 2019 and now tops 24 million. Much of this growth is driven by immigration, in particular from India and China. Our politicians and bureaucrats have made a policy choice to invite millions of new Americans who are statistically likely to favor one political party by huge margins.

When I mentioned this aspect of immigration policy on a panel last year, another panelist scoffed, “We shouldn’t care whether the immigrants vote Republican or not. That shouldn’t matter. What should matter is whether they’ll make ordinary Americans better off.” Atlantic writer Conor Friedersdorf offered a similar response on Twitter: “A conservative who judges whether immigrants should be admitted to the nation on the basis of their party affiliation is a short-sighted conservative indeed.”

Certainly Republicans should continue to point out all the ways our policies are better for Asian voters. They are better. But if the best showing we can muster, the kind that makes the New York Times sit up and take notice, is still a double-digit loss in an election where Republican issues like crime were unusually salient, then the real short-sightedness would be to continue importing Democratic voters in the hope that they will start voting Republican eventually.


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