Asian Americans have been the fastest-growing group of eligible voters in the United States over roughly the past two decades, but their growth has leveled off somewhat since 2018. Their number has grown by 9%, or just about a million eligible voters, in the past four years – greater than the 3% growth rate of the total number of eligible voters during the same time.
Asian Americans typically lean Democratic. In an August 2022 Pew Research Center survey, 57% of English-speaking, Asian registered voters said they would likely back the Democratic candidate in their U.S. House of Representatives district race, while 26% said they would likely support the Republican candidate. In midterm elections, voter turnout rates among Asian American eligible voters has typically trailed those of some other groups while keeping up with the rate of Hispanic voter turnout.
As the midterm elections approach, here are six key facts about Asian eligible voters in the U.S., based on Pew Research Center projections for 2022, as well as Census Bureau data for previous years. (Eligible voters in this analysis are defined as citizens ages 18 and older residing in the 50 states and the District of Columbia. Not all eligible voters are actually registered to vote. Detailed demographic information about Asian American eligible voters is available in the drop-down box at the bottom of the post.)
This post is one in a series that explores the eligible voter population in the United States in 2022. For this analysis, we examine the detailed demographics and geographic distribution of Asian Americans who were eligible to vote in the U.S. in 2020, with projections about the Asian American eligible voter population in 2022.
In this analysis, Asians are defined as those who report their race as Asian alone and non-Hispanic, Asian and at least one other race and non-Hispanic, or Asian and Hispanic; previous analyses were limited to single-race, non-Hispanic Asians. Those who did not indicate they were of Asian race but said they were either Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander are not counted as Asian in this analysis. Due to data limitations, this post does not analyze Asian American eligible voters by origin group in 2020. The term “eligible voters” refers to persons ages 18 and older who are U.S. citizens. This analysis was conducted with respect to those living in the 50 states and the District of Columbia.
The analysis is based on data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Surveys from 2020, 2018, 2016, 2012 and 2008, and the 2000 U.S. decennial census provided through Integrated Public Use Microdata Series (IPUMS) from the University of Minnesota.
Projections for November 2022 use population estimates by age derived by extrapolating 2020 data from the American Community Survey (IPUMS) with the U.S. Census Bureau’s Vintage 2021 population estimates for July 2020 and November 2022. Projected values of the share who are U.S. citizens are based on trends drawn from the 2010-2019 American Community Surveys (IPUMS).
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This November, a projected 13.3 million Asian Americans will be eligible to vote, making up 5.5% of all eligible voters, according to Pew Research Center projections. Between 2000 and 2020, single-race, non-Hispanic Asian Americans made up the fastest growing racial or ethnic group in the U.S. electorate. However, the number and share of Asian American eligible voters (of any race or ethnicity) changed only a small amount between 2020 and this year, according to the Center’s projections.
As of 2020, the majority of Asian American eligible voters (56%) live in only five states. California has the highest number of Asian American eligible voters by far (4.2 million). The state is home to nearly a third (32%) of the entire U.S. Asian electorate. The state with the second-most Asian American eligible voters is New York (1.1 million), followed by Texas (930,000), Hawaii (565,000) and New Jersey (505,000).
Hawaii is the only state where Asian Americans make up a majority of the eligible voter population. Asian Americans make up 55% of the electorate in Hawaii, the only state where a racial or ethnic group other than single-race White, non-Hispanic eligible voters are the majority. Following Hawaii, the states with the largest shares of Asian eligible voters are California (16%) and Nevada (10%).
Hawaii also has the highest share of eligible voters within its Asian population. Seven-in-ten Asians in Hawaii are eligible to vote, the highest share of any state with an Asian population of 50,000 or more. Following Hawaii on this measure are Nevada (64%), California (61%), Louisiana (60%) and Florida (59%).
Overall, more than half of all Asian Americans in the U.S. (56%) are eligible to vote, compared with 72% of the total U.S. population. Asian Americans are less likely than Americans overall to be eligible to vote because a significant share are immigrants who are not U.S. citizens. Asian immigrants who are not eligible to vote include permanent residents (green card holders) and those in the process of becoming permanent residents; those in the U.S. on temporary visas; and unauthorized immigrants.
A majority of Asian American eligible voters (57%) are naturalized citizens, rather than U.S.-born citizens. Asian Americans are the only major racial or ethnic group where the majority of eligible voters are naturalized citizens. A smaller share of Asian American eligible voters (43%) are U.S.-born citizens.
Asian American eligible voters are more likely than the overall eligible voter population to have a bachelor’s degree. As of 2020, half of Asian American eligible voters have a bachelor’s degree or more education. By comparison, about a third (33%) of the total eligible voter population has at least a bachelor’s degree. Asian eligible voters are also more likely than the general eligible voter population to have a postgraduate degree of some kind, such as a master’s degree or law degree (19% vs. 12%).
However, past analyses by Pew Research Center indicate that educational attainment varies widely among different Asian origin groups in the United States.
When it comes to age, Asian Americans are slightly younger than eligible voters overall. The median age for Asian American eligible voters is 44, compared with 48 among the broader population of eligible voters. And 36% of Asian American eligible voters are ages 30 to 49, compared with 32% of the total eligible voter population.