Hello and welcome to the five Thursday Politics podcast. I'm Galen Group. There were protests against anti-union violence across the country over the weekend.
They were in response to the killing of eight people in three massage parlors around Atlanta, six of whom were women of Asian descent. The protests also addressed the broader context of anti-union rhetoric and violence that has increased since the start of the covid-19 pandemic. Today, we're going to discuss the killings in Atlanta and take a closer look at Asian crime data. Hate crime data can be difficult to collect, but according to the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California state, San Bernardino, the largest cities in the country, saw a one hundred fifty percent increase in anti Asian hate crimes reported to the police on average over the past year.
We're also going to look at the political response to these attacks and talk about how Asian-American political participation and influence is evolving, particularly given that people of Asian descent are the fastest growing racial or ethnic group in the country. Here with me to do that, our editor in chief, Nate Silver. Hello, Nate, everybody. Also with us, politics reporter Alex Samuels. Hey, Alex, again.
And also joining us is Jane Gern, political science and gender studies professor at the University of Southern California.
Hello and welcome, Jane. Hello. Thank you.
And also with us is Karthick Ramakrishnan, professor of public policy at UC Riverside and founder of AAPI Data. Welcome, Karthick.
Thank you for having me. So let's talk about the specifics of the attacks in Atlanta to begin with. The suspect, a twenty one year old white man, has been charged with murdering eight people, six of whom, as I mentioned, were women of Asian descent. Asian-Americans have said that the murders are part of a trend of rising anti Asian hate crimes.
During the coronavirus, the suspect described his motivation to, quote, eliminate a, quote, temptation because of sex ed. And his former roommate described him as concerned about, quote, falling out of God's grace. The evidence so far suggests he was targeting women he perceived to be selling sex. There are a lot of layers here. So just to start off, how should we think of the different forces at play in this attack?
And, Jane, you can kick us off.
I think there are a lot of different ways to think about this problem. I mean, and it is while it is something that is obvious and apparent in this moment, it's not as if this is an isolated incident. So as the data will show us that despite as difficult as it is to collect, this kind of violence happens on a regular basis. And the violence isn't always reported out in this particular way. Many of these crimes happen within the context of either domestic situations or a number of different ways where we might think about crimes that are not as rise to the level of murders as it did in this case and rise to the level of a mass murder, as this one is, but in every day slurs and negative attitudes and behaviors.
So it is within the context of not just only Asian-Americans in this moment, but I think it's important to think about this also being relevant to immigration and immigrants, to women in particular. And I think as a reflection more generally of white supremacist hetero normative behavior, anything that doesn't fit within the context of what is supposed to be whites on top, men on top, Christians on top, and heterosexual people who should rule the day. This set of behaviors isn't really any different than what we see on an everyday basis, which isn't to say that it isn't an awful situation, but it is to say that this is a continuous line that you can draw all the way back to the 19th century in the United States.
Yeah, Karthick, weigh in here. How are you thinking about some of the different layers of. So it's really hard to get hard data, right, in terms of because we know that there is so much underreporting when it comes to different acts of violence and discrimination in 2016. The National Asian-American Survey asked respondents whether they've ever been threatened or harassed. And we found that nine percent of Asian-American respondents said that they had. So if we look at figures today in terms of over three thousand eight hundred that are reported being threatened or harassed or other kinds of hate incidents that they've experienced, if we had to actually look at the likely numbers, probably on the scale of two million or probably even higher than that.
Right. Because that was from twenty sixteen before you saw this massive uptick after covid-19 hit and the kind of rhetoric we saw from the president on down in terms of scapegoating these communities. So we're finally seeing the kind of recognition. It's really tragic that it takes these. Killings for this to be recognized as such, finally, but that's where we are today. Yeah.
And Alex, you've done some reporting before this attack on the experiences of Asian-Americans during the coronaviruses pandemic. What did you find?
Yeah, so what we found was even before the pandemic, this is not the first time Asian-Americans have been uttered. For Asian-Americans in particular, there was the yellow peril stereotype that emerged in the late 19th century after an increase of immigration to the US from China, when the West essentially realized that Asians were strong enough as a political, economic and military threat to surpass the US. And one expert I talked to put it pretty succinctly in the way she explained it was there was this idea of wanting to paint East Asians as dangerous outsiders, but not so threatening that they were superior in a sense.
But we've seen this with pandemics beyond covid to where often people of color are people from marginalized communities get Uhtred and then we see the effects of that. And unfortunately, the Georgia attack, which is probably the biggest culmination of what we've seen so far regarding violence against some of these groups in the aftermath of this attack in Atlanta.
Pretty quickly, police were reporting on the suspect's motivations.
Christopher Ray, the FBI director, told NPR, quote, that it does not appear that the motive was racially motivated.
Officials in Atlanta said that nothing is off the table for our investigation. And we've heard a lot from the Asian-American community activists in particular who see this as racially motivated. What's the divide here? Why are officials saying this may not necessarily be prosecuted as a hate crime? The motivation is unclear. It may not have been racial versus what we're hearing from activist communities.
One thing I want to point out was this perception from the shooter. And Gailen, you talked about this earlier, that there was this perceived, quote, temptation at these spores relies on these longstanding tropes about businesses like these and about Asian-American women in particular, who have long been fetishized as sexual partners. So in other words, the suspect's choice of victims and the rationale he gave were telling in and of themselves. So he may have explicitly said that race was not a factor, but his actions and the reasoning clearly suggest a different interpretation.
It depends on how narrowly you read motivation. There's a whole bunch of things that informs people's thoughts and opinions about who is worthy, who is not worthy, who can be controlled, who cannot be controlled, et cetera, who deserves to be on top in terms of positions of power. Jane had talked about this earlier, so it's just seems absurd to many, not only in Asian-American and Pacific Islander communities, but I think Americans more generally, who are attuned to how race actually works in American society, to say that race has nothing to do with this.
Where were these venues chosen as opposed to other types of venues where there may be temptation for someone who claims that it's due to sex addiction. So it just doesn't pass the smell test or whatever other commonsensical test that one could think of to say that race is not one of the central factors here.
When most people go out to commit a hate crime, they're doing so for long standing, deeply embedded reasons that they think that they hate one group or another. They don't necessarily have to admit it. So, for example, when Amanda Berry is murdered, jogging through a neighborhood, that is as clear in my view as the hate crime. It's this set of murders was as well. Now, federal law, there's a wide range here. So it could be a federal crime.
This is also obviously a Georgia state crime. So it depends on the type of jurisdiction and the types of laws. So I believe after the amount arbitrary shooting there is and killing, there is legislation in front of or gone through the Georgia state legislature on hate crimes, which had not existed prior to that murder.
I mean, the one last thing I think it's worth mentioning that is compatible with what everyone else has said, which populations become sex workers is also not detached from racism, racism in the country. So to me, it's like as someone who does not have the expertize on some of the issues that the rest of the panel, but kind of observes how the media reacts to certain things. I mean. The temptation of very finely parts the killer's motivations, as opposed to saying it's kind of all of the above, probably has seemed ridiculous to me.
And in some sense, there is a long history right from the eighteen hundreds. So if you look at the Page Act in 1875 that was specifically designed to control the entry of Asian women because of either the reality or the stereotypes and some combination thereof in terms of what the gendered labor look like when Chinese immigrants came to work on the railroads. Fast forward to the nineteen hundreds in terms of U.S. military interventions abroad, as well as U.S. military bases that exist to this day that create all sorts of problems in terms of how vulnerable sex workers and just Asian-American women are throughout the world in terms of what U.S. military interventions and military presence looks like.
So what we're seeing here should not be seen in isolation to that larger historical and contemporary dynamic.
I think it's quite important here is the history and the context in which these stereotypes evolve. So he mentions the Page Act of 1875. This is prior to the first major federal legislation, 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act and the Page Act is created in part not because Chinese women are necessarily all prostitutes. It's created in part to reinforce that stereotype and to stop Asian people from multiplying in the United States. Because if you allow Asian women into the United States, as you allowed Asian men in in order to man the work on mines, in laundries, in farms, then what you will do is produce more Asian people.
So it's explicitly in the Congressional Record. One of the things we want to do, we meet in the federal government is to limit the expansion of the Asian population in the United States. And that is part of the reason why the Page Act of 1875 is passed and it's passed because under the justification, however, that is going to be limiting moral turpitude. But as it turns out, it's instigated in order to stop Asian men from reproducing with Asian women.
Now, to the extent that they then get with white women, white women then lose their citizenship status in the United States, because if you married an Asian man at that time, you would lose your citizenship status and by definition, your children could not become citizens. So it's not until 1952 with McCarren, Walter, that, in fact, Asian-Americans can become naturalized citizens. So it's important to consider not only the immigration trajectory and the reasons behind this, the long standing anti-immigration sentiment, which is different in a way, but also very similar to how it is that the United States treated African-Americans during this period.
They were not even humans and they were still at this time in the mid 19th century, not included into the body politic. It's important to also consider the colonial and imperial history of the United States in the very recent past. Who do we take as an entire country? We take the Philippines and the Filipinos in the United States are, I believe, Karthick. Correct me if this is incorrect. The second largest population of Asian-Americans in the United States, the Philippines remains a part of the United States until it's given back to the Philippines.
I believe in the nineteen thirties. And at this time, even now, the American colonial and imperial influence can be felt in the Philippines in the same way it is felt in Korea and in other places in Southeast Asia, Vietnam among them. When we think about this, it's not just a question of military involvement. And it's not only Americans. I give you none other than the example of the euphemism of comfort women, which is really a term that we should stop using and instead recognize that women that are taken by the Japanese Imperial Army throughout its colonial and imperial ambitions in the 18th and 19th century are the sex slaves of women who were primarily Filipino and Korean.
So this is a practice not just of American militarism and American imperialism. This is a practice of patriarchy wherein a euphemism, something like comfort women serves only the man and serves the soldier. How does it describe the woman? Certainly it is not comfortable for her to be a sex slave. So the point here is that it's not only the American military or white people who inflict these kinds of crimes and suffering on women. It's people in general when political structures and systems allow them to.
You talk their. A lot about the history of people of Asian descent in the United States. I think the stereotypes today are quite different. The stereotype that Asians have made it in America, the data shows that Asian-Americans earn the highest incomes of any racial or ethnic group in the country. And that top line overshadows a lot of diversity across different Asian-American communities. Can you talk a little bit about that? I know you conduct the API survey and so you have a more granular look at what the Asian-American community looks like than we get from some of the many other surveys that don't survey enough people of Asian descent to actually understand the different communities.
I mean, so one word you hear time and again among AAPI organizations is does need to disaggregate. If you just take the Asian average or sometimes when you say API, which is Asian-American Pacific Islander or API, Asian Pacific Islander, that homogenizes an experience and a set of outcomes that just gross injustice to the kind of disparities you have within the community. So a big move that happened in 2000 was to have a separate racial category for native Hawaiian and other Pacific Islander.
And that's important to note that even when we say API or API data, those are actually two separate racial groups. The big reason for that separation was not only to understand the vast, different history and also the kind of coherence as a people's, if you will, of Pacific Islander populations and what that experience has meant, but also to recognize that it's a much smaller group, that when they get lumped in with that larger Asian-American group, you don't see the vast struggles that they face economically health wise and on a various set of indicators, that same logic also applies within the Asian-American community.
One thing it should be that's important to note is that during the pandemic, you saw a massive increase in Asian-American unemployment that has not been adequately appreciated. So Asian-Americans used to have the lowest unemployment rate. When you look at that average, even though you had diversity within the community, now you're seeing this massive increase in Asian-American unemployment. So their unemployment rate is higher than it is among non Hispanic whites. So even when it comes to this average view of Asian-Americans, that needs to be updated during the pandemic.
Now, within that average, you have massive disparities. So Southeast Asian populations, refugee populations tend to have much worse outcomes when it comes to poverty, when it comes to educational attainment, when it comes to wealth and mental health outcomes and a whole host of other issues. So that's something that has often lacked recognition that people just think of the average and they don't realize how you have many populations that are struggling. Then even within certain communities like the Chinese American community, you have this massive bifurcation.
You have those higher educated individuals who are engineers or doctors or lawyers, but you also have those that are working in restaurants, that are working in convenience stores. And so it's important to pay attention to that diversity and the inequality within Asian-American communities.
Everything Karthick said is correct, but I want to expand on that a little bit. It's not just the bimodal distribution by ethnic group, whether that's a function of long standing imperial and colonial subjugation or whether it's a function of, let's say, immigration policy more generally. But I think it's important to consider variation even inside of a group. So consider Korean Americans, for example. Most people think Korean Americans, if you look at the data on Korean Americans, are doing pretty well in terms of income and educational attainment.
And remember that Korean Americans come to the United States primarily and certainly after the nineteen sixty five Immigration Nationality Act. Prior to that, it was impossible, in fact, also excluded by federal law. But I want to give you an example of how it is the Korean Americans are not just all BMW driving, gated community living Southern Californians. Let's talk about young Kim, for example. She is a newly elected Republican member of Congress from the thirty ninth.
She takes over after a very close election, the prior election of 18, when Gil Cisneros wins that district. Young Kim is a conservative Republican, Korean, American immigrant, and yet she's in favor of DACA. And why is that? It's not only just a principal reason, it's because there are many Korean Americans who are unauthorized, undocumented in the United States. So it's not just a question of every person who's carrying a. American who is in this case is Asian, and if a higher, relatively speaking, in group based socioeconomic status, but there's variation even inside of groups.
Let me just put a finer point on this with a personal anecdote. Even if you are a university professor. It doesn't matter, I'm in Chicago and have a wonderful place called the Green Mill, and if any of you know what, it's a bar is a speakeasy and it's a it's a performance venue. Now, I'm in this place for quite some time ago in the 90s, and I'm sitting at the bar with a friend and there's a man there who looks at me wistfully and says, I'd like to buy you a drink because you remind me of my Korean prostitute when I was in the war.
Now, this can happen to you is a function of just what you look like. He doesn't know anything about me, but he simply knows that I'm an Asian woman who's probably Korean and who reminds him of his prostitute back when he was a soldier stationed in Korea. So it doesn't matter in many ways what your socioeconomic status is. You can be a university professor with a Ph.D. and born in the United States, never set foot in Korea. And you still have the stereotype attached to you.
So I think it's important socioeconomic status and movement through the social hierarchy in the United States is important, but the racial hierarchy and the gender stereotypes attached with those are as important. It doesn't matter to this guy who murders these women, whether she is an M.D. going in for a neck adjustment on her massage or if she is the proprietor or misuse because he's going to shoot her anyway. So I want to add one thing, Claire Cam wrote an excellent piece a few decades ago in light of thinking about Korean Americans and Asian-Americans more generally in America's racial order and an important contribution she made.
A lot of people have thought about Asian-Americans as what they used to call middle man minorities or middle minorities. This is not just in the United States, but abroad as well, where you have a dominant group, including in many parts of Africa, for example, you had a white colonial power that was the dominant group politically. And then you have a disenfranchized group and then you have Asians occupying the middle status that makes them especially vulnerable because they don't have the same political power as the dominant group.
They have some economic power within that system, but they are more powerful than the thoroughly disenfranchized. And so that was the thinking. When you think about Asian-Americans in many parts of the United States that are shopkeepers, motel owners, things like that, what Claire Kim showed was that it wasn't simply that one dimension of who's on top and who's on the bottom. What she showed and said is that there is this other dimension not of who is superior or inferior, but who is an insider versus an outsider who is a foreigner versus who is a native.
One of our colleagues, Janelle Wong, she's a sixth generation Chinese American, but it does not matter if you see her on the street, the kind of stereotype as this is a foreigner, whereas she is more American than many other Americans in the country today. That is that dimension of that perpetual foreigner. That is something that it's not unique to the Asian-American experience of Latinos experience that two in which there's that presumed illegality that if you see someone who looks Latino, you presume not only that they're an immigrant, but they're an undocumented immigrant.
So that's how powerful some of these racial stereotypes operate.
But with Asian-Americans, it is that forever foreigner or perpetual foreigner trope that comes through time and again whenever there is a massive foreign policy threat or it's a terrorism threat or in this case, pandemic threat, all of the ugly aspects of American society come out because of that perceived foreigner status.
So you talk about some of the dynamics here. I want to talk a little bit about the hate crime data. I mentioned it at the top. One hundred fifty percent increase across major American cities on average, more in some cities, less in others. What are some of the challenges in collecting and tracking this kind of data?
I mean, there are challenges in any type of crime data, which is that a lot of crimes go unreported. That's one big problem. How you define a hate crime or not. Obviously, it can be fraught how you report a certain crime, but I mean in the rest of the panel here. But crime data inherently is difficult where people may be scared to report a crime is committed against them, especially when they feel like the police may not be fully supportive of them potentially.
Again, on the flip side. And if you go looking for a certain type of crime, then it may be more of you may find it more.
So I think it's inherently pretty difficult piggybacking off what Nate said. Victims are also unlikely to report to police because of a number of reasons, including sometimes language barriers, immigration status and distrust of the police, too, which makes it all the more harder to collect a comprehensive list of hate crime data specifically over the last year or so.
So you have these grassroots efforts like Stop AAPI hate that emerged out of California, but is collecting that data nationally. You have some other efforts out of D.C. as well, and they've shown more incidents than what these hate crime statistics have shown, partly because these are hate incidents and not necessarily crimes. Now, some of those could be crimes if if it went through that process of those being reported and the state governments deciding to prosecute those as crimes as opposed to just treating them as incidents that don't reach that level of crime.
So there's a lot of gaps between an incident occurring and then it being classified as a hate crime, either because it's not reported, B, it's reported, but it's not deemed to be a criminal act, or C, that it's reported. It is deemed to be a criminal act, but it's not seen as racially motivated as the debate is occurring right now. It's pretty clear that crimes have occurred with these murders. But even with what seems to be relatively straightforward claim that race played a role here in terms of how the venues and the victims were targeted, to see this kind of doubt creeping in even at this stage, I think doesn't speak well in terms of what future victims can expect when they bring up something as a.
An incident or a hate crime? I'd also like to highlight an element that is consistent with other types of crimes that are heavily underreported and those include sexual assault and sexual harassment. Give you the examples of some of the more recent ones about politicians in New York. Republican and Democratic women are reluctant to come forward about sexual assault and sexual harassment, in part because they feel that it is embarrassing. It is shameful because that the act happened. Was that something you did, you know, prosecutors or defense attorneys, long term strategy of making them, asking the woman, were you drunk?
Were you wearing a tight skirt or a blouse or a short skirt? All of the things that come with shame and embarrassment for being different, for having been singled out. These are all reasons behind also limitations to reporting. And I think that the one thing that we can say going forward is that. Hate crimes applying to Asian Americans, we would never want circumstances like this to occur, but the fact that they have occurred and people are speaking out about it and then on this very podcast, you are doing a show on this says a lot to me and that I do think that reporting will get better because of all of the reasons people have suggested and those limitations can come down.
But at the same time, because this is a political issue, this is a political issue of racial mistreatment, gendered mistreatment that are finally coming to light painfully, but nevertheless coming to light. It's an issue for Democrats and Republicans.
I want to talk a little more specifically about the political response and Asian-American political participation broadly.
But first, just to start things off, what kind of political response have we seen to this attack in Atlanta and to anti-immigrant incidents over the past year since the pandemic began?
First of all, to have an Asian-American as vice president, she's African-American, too. But she also identifies with her Indian heritage and spoke pretty powerfully the day after the Atlanta murders. That is huge. Contrast that with having President Trump in many ways exacerbating the situation of the rising entire classes of Americans during the pandemic by calling it the China virus and many other awful things that really increased the racial tension in the country and more tightly associating Asian-Americans here with the pandemic.
We've seen Republican members of Congress, especially the Korean American members of Congress that recently got elected, also speaking relatively strongly on this. But this, generally speaking, and we saw this in the post 9/11 period, too, when a different group of Asian-Americans were targeted. The Democratic Party and Democratic leaders just tend to have a lot more credibility and a lot more authenticity when they speak out against hate crimes, when they speak out against xenophobia and violence. Republican Party and Republican officials tend not to have as much credibility on that.
And that that's part of why you see this continued. What you saw in the last 20 to 30 years is the shift away from the Republican Party towards the Democratic Party.
So that's the response from the White House on the broader parties. But in terms of Asian-Americans themselves, we mentioned that Asian-Americans are the fastest growing racial or ethnic group in the country. Almost six percent of the country now is people of Asian descent. How have Asian-Americans political impact evolved over time? You said originally more Republican leaning, now more Democratic leaning. What do we chalk that up to? And where are we seeing Asian-American voters have the most influence today?
So there's two sets of factors. One is the growth of the Asian-American population and their increasing political engagement and involvement. So let's take that first and then we can talk about party shifts over time. So where Asian-Americans are growing the fastest tends to be in states like Georgia, North Carolina, Texas, and many of these other states that are also trending more purple in the next decade or two. But that's one of the factors that makes it incredibly interesting to pay attention to where the Asian-American electorate is growing the fastest in terms of their proportions.
Right. And we saw that in Georgia. We saw that in Georgia in twenty twenty as well as in early twenty twenty one with the Senate runoff races where Asian-Americans, they're not large, but in terms of their share of the electorate, Target Smart, a company that looked at their share of the electorate, pegged it at a little under two percent in terms of their share of the voting population, but it was a substantial increase over what they saw in twenty sixteen.
Overall, Asian-Americans have tended to under participate compared to African-Americans or whites, especially when you control for their socioeconomic status. And a lot of that is because of lack of party outreach and attention to these populations. Over a century ago, you had political parties and machines that tried to integrate immigrants, not Asian immigrants that were not qualified to naturalize, let alone vote. But you had at least some immigrant populations that were mobilized by party machines. You're not seeing that today, nearly to the same extent.
It is changing, however, in some of these states and in some of these congressional districts, like in Orange County, like in Nevada places, certain districts in New Jersey, Virginia and elsewhere where you are starting to see this mobilization. Now, this other question in terms of why Asian-Americans have become Democrats over the last two decades, it's a set of what I and others call a set of pull factors and push factors. So the fact that the Clinton administration did a lot of outreach to Asian.
Americans got people like Norm Mineta appointed to a cabinet position and in general encouraged a lot of Asian Americans to run for office during the Clinton presidency. Those were efforts to try to attract Asian Americans towards the Democratic Party post 9/11.
Can't emphasize how important 9/11 was because what you saw with 9/11 was the rise of whatever you want to call it, ethnic nationalism, white nationalism. Within the Republican Party, you saw the strengthening of Christian conservatism within the Republican Party. Those were sort of push factors combined with the racial profiling of many Asian-Americans that made them feel much more at home in the Democratic Party than the Republican Party. And there's different kinds of research, including experimental research, as well as observational research, that all reinforce this notion that discrimination tends to favor the Democratic Party over the Republican Party when it comes to Asian-Americans and their preferences.
So people often ask, why do Asian-Americans trail in turnout behavior, other groups of minority Americans as well as white American voters? And it is the case that in terms of not only voting by the eligible population, but by registered voters, that Asian-Americans tend to vote at a lower rate. And one of the main reasons, an explanation for that is the relatively new status of citizen and voter to Asian-Americans. So let me give you some examples in the state of California using Public Policy Institute of California, that would be pipsy data from 2020 among Asian-Americans who are registered voters.
Half of them are naturalized citizens. So imagine that is much, much higher than any other racial group. So in comparison, it's the case that 94, 96 percent of white and African-American voters in California are native born U.S. citizens who by definition can vote the moment they turn and can register to vote by the time they are 18. Latinos in California are 70 percent U.S. born who are registered voters. And what this tells us is that it's a relatively new experience for half of Asian-American voters, at least in the state of California.
And those numbers are much higher in other locations. So if you look at adult Asian-Americans in the United States, so those who would be eligible to register and vote, more than two thirds of them are foreign born. So imagine if any of you, all your listeners move to a foreign country. Let's say you go to France or something, and then it takes a while to figure out who to vote for, takes a while to figure out what your political preferences are.
And so that lag can account for a good amount at the individual level of why it is that Asian-Americans turn out at a lower rate at the same time. And as Karthick mentioned earlier, there is not as much mobilization on the part of political parties, as well as by community group organizations and other mobilizing agents. But I think that some of these events, whether it's the pandemic, the anti-abortion violence, more generally can step in to create more mobilization by the group because we can recognize the structural conditions.
It's more evident what those structural conditions of marginalization, discrimination and violence are. And that leads me to highlight for you a group to watch. So among Asian-Americans, something like at least in the state of California, among registered voters. Sixty four percent of Asian-American voters have a college degree. Now, this is 20 percent higher than whites who come in at about 44 percent of voters with a college degree and also higher than both African-American and Latino populations at thirty five and 25 percent.
If there is an activation of anti Asian violence, knowledge, information, and if what you are looking for is a group that will activate voter registration, perceptions, issue positions, it is college educated Asian-Americans.
I think there's also a little bit of a chicken and egg problem with respect to activation by which should mean the following historically are currently also Asian-American voters are primarily concentrated in non swing states. You look at the population as a population. It's largest in Hawaii, California, Washington, New Jersey, Nevada, New York, Alaska, Virginia, Massachusetts, Maryland, Illinois, Oregon, etc.. And historically, people in non swing states participate at lower rates. And the other flipside of that is that the parties tend to put less emphasis on voters who are not concentrated in swing states as much.
After that, you do get to states like Texas, Georgia, Arizona, North Carolina, where the population of Asian-Americans is growing the fastest and that could. Changelings, potentially, but the kind of biases, if you will, an electoral college kind of against urban states and dense metropolitan areas has meant that historically that Asian-Americans have been less powerful than they would be based on their their share of the population. And then also because people participate less, like I said, in states where, frankly, their vote matters less.
Alex, I know you've done reporting on Asian-American voting preferences in Texas. What did you find?
So in Texas, I think the population is less than five percent Asian-American. So it was hard to actually gauge this in Texas. But what we found overall was that Indian Americans overwhelmingly tend to be more Democratic, whereas we had Vietnamese Americans tended to be more Republican and then other Asian-American groups tend to be more split.
One problem in all this interpretation that goes back to what we're talking about earlier is that if you have a group that's four percent of the electorate, then the sample sizes are much smaller and you're doing a survey. And so you have a lot more conflicting data, potentially exit poll data, for example, that shows that Trump actually gained among Asian-Americans in 2020 relative to 2016. But the sample sizes are small enough, combined with the other problems of the exit polls, where there is more uncertainty now that there might be with what happened among white voters, for example.
So collecting rich, granular data down to the precinct level can probably inform our understanding a lot more than it could just be a topline.
Numbers and surveys definitely want to second that. And I think that probably the best way to think about this would be to look at precinct level data if they're available and then append to that census data. I also want to note that and I think you alluded to this, Nate, in your comment that each election, remember everybody, each election is a distinctive electorate. So whether you've got the dog catcher, mosquito abatement in some Chicago election in 2017 and then you go on to 18, it's a entirely different electorate.
So making comparisons between 16 and 20 are made with peril because, of course, the electorate was much larger in 2020. I also want to go back to considering and as we think about changes over time with respect to specific Asian ethnic groups, Alex, you mentioned Vietnamese in Texas and Vietnamese and Texas are different from Vietnamese in California, are different from Vietnamese in Louisiana, for example. And we want to think about not only changes in distinctions by contextual environment, what is allowed in terms of a Republican member of Congress or a Democrat and within those groups, because the politics of those states are very different, but also consider the generational replacement and the change that's undergoing there.
So I think that among Vietnamese, so the Vietnamese Americans who come to the United States as refugee populations and very much opposed to the parties that were considered to be sympathetic to communists, are then moved toward the Republican Party. But as those generations are replaced by younger generations, I think the best research that has been done on Vietnamese populations, this is probably by then Bishan, one of them at UC Riverside and others about changes in the perspectives of Vietnamese Americans as generational replacement is occurring.
So as the older generations are departing, the voting rolls and younger ones are coming in, you see Vietnamese American voters moving toward the Democratic Party.
We did see in this past election in twenty twenty two Republican women of Asian descent when in Orange County in California and flipped some districts, districts where Democrats had made gains in twenty eighteen. What part of the political spectrum of Asian-Americans do those two new representatives represent? Are there parts of the Asian community in America that are trending more to the right or find certain things attractive about the contemporary Republican Party?
I think there's always been, you know, the parties, especially in California, to the extent that the candidates in this case, they're not super conservative Republicans. Neither Michel Steele, who defeated in this case, Harley Rouda, who was a first term Democratic congressman who won just by a hair in two thousand and eighteen, as well as young Kim, who represents, I believe, the 39th formerly represented by a first term Congressman Gilsenan. Those are areas that are Asian, but not majority Asian, so that we will only have a couple of districts that are like that in the state of California and the federal congressional side.
But I think you find in those two races there were very close both times. What I think you find is the activation of Republican white voters in those areas who make up a large proportion of voters, both in Santa Ana as well as in, I believe, the area of Huntington Beach, which. Just where Michelle Steel is, but the point here is that it's not necessarily Asian-American voters that bring these two Asian-American women into Congress in the 2020 election.
My guess is it's as much the activation of more white Republican voters who come out to support Trump in 2020. That puts those two candidates over the top. The more important question for us to consider is why were they running? Who put them there in the first place? The Republican Party and interestingly, in this case in California, is looking for women of color to run on the Republican side. This is a relatively new phenomenon. If you look at the Republican conference and the delegation of Republicans in the current United States Congress, it's obviously among Republicans heavily, heavily male, whereas the Democratic side is something like 40 percent female.
Republicans have a long way to catch up. And instead of running their white sisters, they are running women of color, in particular Asian-Americans in these districts in California. It's a strategy, I would imagine, on the part of the Republicans to try to bring in a broader group and the acknowledgment that Asian-American voters could be swayed by co ethnic ties or co racial ties, as well as a potential move toward Republican or in general, more conservative values and with within kind of like a straw man or what.
But let me kind of give you the things that I read from conservatives are here for my conservative friends with respect to why they think. They are doing better among Asian-Americans, right? It's kind of three different pillars that you hear. One theory is that talk of socialism branding Democrats as the party of Bernie would have an effect among certain immigrant classes who left for the United States from socialist societies to is that it has to do with defunding the police and that people are concerned about crime and that they may see this as an insensitive response.
And three has to do with education, schools and standardized testing, which are becoming hot button issues in states where they're moving away from center testing, for example, that have complicated discussions over admissions criteria. So those are the things that that I think conservatives would say are the reasons that they may have more of a chance.
I think those are all possible and they're possible for any set of voters, aren't they? With the exception potentially of the number three one which you raised, which is standardized testing and and in this case, admissions that are race based. So that one being an anti affirmative action position, which in fact most Asian-Americans are for affirmative action, whether at least in California and elsewhere in polling data can demonstrate that more Asian-Americans are in favor of affirmative action, broadly defined.
And yet at the same time, are those the potential weak spots for Democrats? Yeah, they are. But there are many as many weak spots for Republicans, I mean, of purely racist strategy, of bringing voters in, whether it's white supremacist explicitly or otherwise, pretty much works against Republicans, strategies that are anti science, whether they are positions on climate change or mask wearing or vaccine taking, those don't sit well with well educated voters. So that works against Republicans.
In the case of the previous president's administration, the immigration policies that specifically enacted in the context of H-1B visas. So that is to say, visas that are professional and job related, which systematically favor Asian-Americans. The reduction in those at the executive branch level are not popular policies.
I had talked to a GOP strategist in the Houston area and this was pretty 20 20. And Houston is one of the most diverse cities in Texas. But essentially what he said when I asked him how the party was making inroads with Asian-American voters is he said that if Republicans in Texas want to make gains in the state, they need to move beyond this brand of being the party of old white dudes. And to do that, he said it was really a matter of convincing people of color, Asian-Americans in particular, that Republican traditional values align with these minority groups values.
And as Jane was saying, I don't know how much headway they can make with just that argument. But the fact that Republicans seem to be aware of the fact that they are losing people of color, I'm just interested to see how that plays out in future election cycles.
Yeah. All right. Well, we've covered a lot of ground today. It was an important conversation. So thank you, Jane Alex Karthick, for speaking to me. Thank you, everybody. Thank you. My name is Gail Drew. Tony Chow is in the virtual control room. Claire Better Gary Curtis is on audio editing. You can get in touch by emailing us at podcasts at five thirty eight dotcom. You can also, of course, tweet us with any questions or comments.
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