The Latino vote gets a great deal of attention during presidential campaigns—and understandably so. Latino voters in key states such as Colorado, Florida, Nevada, and New Mexico may well decide whether President Obama gets to stay through 2016 or Governor Romney takes over come January 2013.
But analysts, experts, strategists, and other talking heads are largely ignoring the Asian vote. Again, understandably so. Asian American Pacific Islanders (AAPI) make up only 4.8 percent of the U.S. population, a mere pittance of 14.7 million people compared with the 50.5 million Latinos. Moreover, AAPIs are not exactly known for their attendance come election time. Their share of the electorate hovers around the 2 percent mark.
In an extremely tight election however, every vote does count and the invisible Asian voter can make as much of a difference as her Latino neighbor. In highly contested Nevada and Virginia, AAPIs make up 7.8 percent and 5.6 percent of the population respectively.
Asian Americans are poised to be a force to be reckoned with in the near future. AAPIs are the fastest growing racial group, multiplying by 45.6 percent in the past decade, far outpacing the total U.S. population, which only grew by 9.7 percent. Their numbers have risen by at least 30 percent in all states, except in Hawaii where they are already the undisputed majority. Politicians should take note that the AAPI population grew by 116 percent in Nevada and by well over 80 percent in Arizona and North Carolina. Projections show that by mid-century, over 9 percent of the population will be of Asian Pacific Island descent.
As Don T. Nakashini, director emeritus of UCLA’s Asian American Studies Center, writes in the 2011-12 National Asian Pacific American Political Almanac: As voters, donors, public policy advocates, and elected officials, “Asian Pacific Americans seek to no longer remain as spectators to the parade of politics, or as vulnerable victims of partisan power struggles. Instead they are striving to become more organized, more visible, and more effective as participants and leaders in order to advance—as well as protect—their individual and group interests, and to contribute to our nation’s democratic processes and institutions.”
It just might be worth both parties’ time to pay Asian voters some heed.