How religion, ethnicity shape Asian American vote?
Washington: As the US’ fastest-growing immigrant group, Asian Americans are likely to be a key constituency in the 2012 US Presidential Election, but this community is far from a monolithic voting bloc, according to an analyst.
Russell Jeung, an associate professor of Asian American studies at San Francisco State University, has published an analysis of Asian American voting patterns in the 2008 Presidential Election, including a breakdown of nine ethnic groups and 11 religious affiliations that make up the Asian American vote.
“Usually people act in a racial bloc or a religious bloc,” Jeung said, adding: “They have a sense of a shared fate and identity that affects how they vote. For Asian Americans, it’s more complicated as they have more cross-cutting affiliations than most Americans.”
While other ethnic groups in the US may be guided by a shared religion, Asian Americans do not have a common faith and 27 percent don't follow any religion.
The community’s diversity, Jeung said, makes it difficult for Asian Americans to mobilise as a united group and their lack of partisanship may also contribute to low levels of voting among this demographic.
"There's this puzzle of why Asian Americans are less politically involved despite their high levels of education and income," Jeung said, whose analysis was published on August 29 in 'Religion, Race, and Barack Obama's New Democratic Pluralism'.
Jeung said that many Asian Americans feel disenfranchised, which has had a chilling effect on their involvement in politics. Meanwhile, political parties have not invested much time or money in targeted outreach to these voters.
"Asian Americans' diverse backgrounds may also explain their low levels of voting," Jeung said. "Some have come from non-democratic societies and haven't grown up with the idea of political participation," Jeung said. "Others are recent immigrants and aren't eligible to vote."
While Asian Americans were more likely to support Barack Obama in the 2008 Presidential Election compared to Caucasian voters with similar incomes and religious affiliations, there were differences in the voting patterns of Asian American subgroups.