Asian Americans’ Rapidly Growing Political Influence

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Asian American
Courtesy of Dale Cruse (Flickr CC0)

One of Chicago’s fastest-growing populations is Asian Americans. Despite their number, there is no majority ward in the city, but the upcoming redistricting could soon change the makeup of the Chicago City Council. Advocates in Chinatown are calling for the new ward map to include this segment of the population, which would allow residents to elect someone who represents their voices and values.

Seattle, Boston, Cincinnati, and Seattle elected Asian American mayors in November 2021, making history. This is a step toward political representation for traditionally under-represented communities.

The Reflective Democracy Campaign report found that Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPI) make up 6% of the U. S. population, but only 0.9% of elected leaders across all levels of government — the lowest representation of any demographic. Despite Michelle Wu’s historic election in Boston, the U.S. still has a long way to go. Paul Watanabe, Director for the Institute for Asian American Studies at University of Massachusetts Boston, said:

“Even a year ago when people in the United States were polled to name a famous Asian American person — over 40% couldn’t name a single Asian American. Now, I hope they can name the vice president of the United States and the mayor of Boston and the mayor of Cincinnati.”

Asian Americans in the U.S. had lower political involvement, but today their political stature is rapidly growing. Massachusetts State Rep. Tram Nguyen applauded the excitement and eagerness of the new generation’s involvement in civic activism.

Between 2000 and 2010, the overall AAPI population in the U.S. increased more than 40% faster than any other ethnic group. India and China became the top senders of new immigrants surpassing Mexico. Asian American voters doubled their proportion in 2000 and made up to 4% of the electorate, leading to more representation of this population in elected office.

Asian American
Courtesy of Gage Skidmore (Flickr CC0)

Kamala Harris is the first Black, South Asian, and woman vice president.  She is the epitome of the future of America that is becoming more diverse.

When Biden underwent a routine colonoscopy at Walter Reed, he temporarily transferred his powers to Vice President Harris, making her the first Asian American to hold presidential authority.

Along with the growing political participation, this segment of the population is increasingly voting Democrat. For example, in 2000, Al Gore received 55% of the Asian American vote, and John Kerry got 56% in 2004. Four years later, Barack Obama was elected with 62% Asian American support and rose to 73% in his re-election in 2012.

At the local level, the political inclinations of Asian Americans remain diverse. While Hillary Clinton maintained support among them, she fell short compared to Obama, but she led Donald Trump 55% to 14% among Asian-American registered voters.

Written by Janet Grace Ortigas
Edited by Cathy Milne-Ware


WBEZ Chicago: Chicago could soon get its first majority Asian American ward; Meha Ahmad, Daniel Tucker
WYPR: Biden has resumed his duties after briefly transferring power to Harris; Franco Ordoñez
GPH News: Asian Americans made historic strides in politics this year, but true representation still far off

Featured and Top Image Courtesy of Dale Cruse’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License
Inset Image Courtesy of Gage Skidmore’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License

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