Are Asians the New Latino Conundrum for the GOP?

Can the GOP afford to lose the Asian American voting bloc too?

Nov. 15, 2012 — -- If the Republican Party wants to win elections in the future, it should consider appealing to the fastest growing racial group in the United States. No, not Latinos. Asians.

Ronald Reagan famously said that Latinos were Republicans "that didn't know it yet" because of their strong work ethic, emphasis on "family values," and adherence to religious doctrine. George W. Bush was able to capture more than 40 percent of the Latino vote in 2004. Yet, the GOP has seen the Hispanic vote slip away in the past two elections, contributing to Gov. Mitt Romney's huge loss last week.

But a growing group of Asian Republicans believe that Asian voters should be natural political allies for some of the very reasons that Reagan thought Hispanics would also fit in well.

Asians, like Latinos, tend to gravitate towards entrepreneurship and place great value on family relationships and individual work ethic, according to a recent study by Pew. Asians tend to be more educated and wealthier than the average population, whereas, Hispanics fall below the average on both measures.

"You would probably find very few Asian-Americans among the ranks of the '47 percent,' writes Leon Hadar, a blogger for The American Conservative.

Only problem? Asians, like Latinos, are moving more and more to the left with each coming election. The majority of Asian-Americans were Reagan and George H.W. Bush supporters. It wasn't until 2004 that they cast more votes for the Democrats, with 56 percent of Asians voting for John Kerry over George W. Bush. Last week, 73 percent of Asians voted for Barack Obama over Romney -- a higher percentage than Latinos.

Stephanie, the 24-year-old daughter of Chinese and Taiwanese immigrants from New York, says Asians voting for Democrats is "counter-intuitive". After graduating from an Ivy League school, the young financial analyst says she began to realize that many of the ideals she was raised with matched up with those she saw in the Republican Party.

"It was mostly the idea of self-sufficiency and hard work," said Stephanie, who asked that we not use her last name. "It was ironic because my parents liked a small government, less taxes, and then they would vote Democratic."

Eugene Liu, the founder of Asian Conservatives, a website which hosts right-leaning Asian-American bloggers, believes the Republican Party's "challenge" is "how to deliver the message to a changing demographic of immigrant voters."Stephanie thinks that Republicans could be doing more to tailor their message to reach Asian voters.

"They may need more Asian-targeted ad campaigns that shows that their values actually align more closely to the Republican party," Stephanie said. "In different languages too."

According to an election eve poll conducted by Latino Decisions , more than half of the 800 Asian voters surveyed said they were never contacted by "a campaign, political party, or community group to register to vote or to vote." Of those Asians surveyed who were contacted, 55 percent were contacted by Democrats and 38 percent were contacted by Republicans.

While Asians are most heavily concentrated in decidedly blue states, like California and New York, and only represented 3 percent of voters in this election, there is a sizeable and growing Asian population in swing states like Colorado, Nevada, Virginia, and Florida. What's more, the Asian population is projected to grow quickly in the next century, as immigrant parents give birth to Asian-American children. One in ten Americans will be Asian by 2050, according to Pew projections. And, this second generation of Asians tend to be more liberal than their immigrant parents.

Some Asian-Americans on the left argue that the Republican Party's stance on matters like immigration and science (climate change, evolution, and so on) is off-putting to Asian voters. Many immigrants from Asia tend to be professionals, with many holding degrees in math and science.

"As the Republicans continue their war on science, it's hard to see the party appealing to these educated professionals. Who wants to join a party that attacks your livelihood and life's work?... When Republican leaders continue to bash immigrants and try to deny them basic rights and services, it really drives Asian-Americans to not only register to vote, but to vote against the Republican candidates and proposals," wrote a blogger, who goes by pen name "Curtis," for Asian Pacific Americans for Progress.

Still, Asians, like Hispanics, are not a monolithic voting bloc. While many tend to be wealthier and more educated than non-Asians, Hmong, Bangladeshi and Cambodian communities in particular do not follow the trend. What's more, nearly a million Asian-Americans live in the United States without authorization, and many more are standing in line for H1-B visas, or skilled labor visas. While voters of Indian and Japanese descent tend to be the most liberal, the Vietnamese and Filipino communities tend to be more evenly split between parties.

This election season, a growing number of Asian Republicans made it onto local tickets, including Dr. Steve Nguyen and Joe Chow of Texas, and Charles Djou of Hawaii. None of them won their seats. Republican Angie Chen, however, managed to hold on to her spot in the Texas House of Representatives, where she sits on the House Appropriations Committee and is the Vice Chair of the Technologies Committee.

But one of the most prominent Asian Republicans is undoubtedly Governor of South Carolina, Nikki Haley, the daughter of Indian immigrants. And like many Latino Republicans who took the stage that night, Haley told her audience at the Republican National Convention that those who believe in the American Dream will be at home in the Republican Party.

"I am the proud daughter of Indian immigrants who reminded my brothers, my sister and me every single day how blessed we were to live in this country. They loved the fact that only in America, we could be as successful as we wanted to be and nothing would stand in our way," she said with a Southern twang. "Unfortunately, these past few years, you can work hard, try to be as successful as possible, follow the rules, and President Barack Obama will do everything he can to stand in your way," she added.

But Nikki Haley is an exception to the Republican rule. And for that matter, Haley is an exception to the Indian American rule. Eighty-eight percent of the voters who cast their ballots for Mitt Romney were white, and 68 percent of South East Asians consider themselves liberal.

Stephanie says that if the GOP wants to see more Asian Republicans like herself, and Nikki Haley, they should focus on a more inclusive message.

"What turns so many people off is when they are so far right on social issues," Stephanie said. "Especially fiscally, Asians voters could be much more in line with the Republicans."

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