The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Asian-American voters continue to shift to the political left

Donald Trump listens to a question as he appears at the "Retired American Warriors" conference during a campaign stop in Herndon, Virginia, U.S., October 3, 2016. (REUTERS/Mike Segar)

It's easy to over-read the political significance of Fox News' Jesse Watters grotesque use of Asian stereotypes in a segment he filmed earlier this week in New York's Chinatown. This was one "political humorist" (in the wording of his Twitter non-apology) talking about the presidential campaign using sterotypes so played out that a guy working the Catskills in 1955 would have thought they were too corny. But Watters' segment blew up on the same day that a new poll revealed how deeply skeptical the Asian-American community in the United States is of the Republican Party and its presidential nominee, making over-reading the whole thing that much easier.

The survey was conducted by a partnership of researchers from the Universities of Maryland, California-Irvine, California-Riverside and California-Berkeley, using voter lists to identify nearly 1,700 likely Asian-American voters of various ethnic origins. The methodology isn't without gaps: Using the voter list, for example, means non-registered voters are missed from the survey results.

Regardless, its results were stark. Including independents who lean toward one party or the other, more than half of respondents -- 57 percent -- said they identified as Democrats. Under a quarter, 24 percent, said that they identified as Republicans. In a head-to-head match-up, Hillary Clinton earned 59 percent of the support of respondents, to 10 percent who preferred Donald Trump.

Both Clinton and her party are far more positively viewed by Asian-American voters than are Trump and his. More than half of survey respondents view Clinton and the Democrats favorably. More than half view Trump and the Republicans unfavorably.

The 49-point margin suggested by this survey are in line with the long-term trend in presidential voting. Exit polls suggest that the margins by which Asian-American voters prefer the Democrat in presidential elections has increased steadily over the past two decades. That trend largely holds in exit polls from House races as well -- even as the percent of the electorate that is Asian-American increases. Pew Research estimates that 4 percent of the vote in 2016 will be made up of Asian-American voters.

As you might expect, given the above trend, older Asian voters tend to be more supportive of identifying as Republican and viewing the party favorably -- but not substantially so. A quarter of those under 35 view the party favorably; only 3-in-10 of those over that age do.

For Republicans, this a doubly-bad trend. White voters are voting more and more heavily Republican, which is good for them and bad for Democrats, but they're also a consistently smaller segment of the electorate. Hispanic voters vote heavily Democratic and have moved increasingly in that direction even as they make up more of the electorate. That's bigger bad news than the shifting politics of Asian-American voters, but both are the opposites of the trends the party wants to see.

Asian Americans are the fastest growing minority in the United States, yet historically they've had the lowest voter turnout. Will that change this year? (Video: Alice Li/The Washington Post)

Again: We don't want to over-read Watters. But conservative Fox News running that segment just over a month before a presidential election was not the sort of thing that will help shift the trend shown in that second graph.

It was not a good idea for a number of other reasons, too.