Asian-Americans Like Clinton, Don’t Like Trump

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Democratic Presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton speaks with Asian American and Pacific Islander voters
Asian-Americans are another nonwhite demographic where voters are fine with Hillary Clinton, especially as opposed to Donald Trump.Photo: FREDERIC J. BROWN/This content is subject to copyright.

One of the more surprising exit-poll findings of the 2012 presidential election was that Asian-Americans voted for Barack Obama in higher percentages (73-26) than did Latinos (71-27), despite having (on average) much higher socioeconomic status and less of a pro-Democratic partisan tradition. And that’s why a 2014 exit poll finding that Asian-Americans were divided evenly between the two parties was hotly disputed.

Whatever did and didn’t happen in 2012 and 2014, there’s fresh evidence that the often-forgotten (until California votes!) Asian-American community, which is growing rapidly, is in the current environment tilting pretty strongly away from Donald Trump’s GOP

A new national survey sponsored by several Asian-American and Pacific Islander advocacy groups shows a recent trend toward affiliation with the Democratic Party, a strong hostility to Trump, and a relatively high level of affection for Hillary Clinton, the most popular in this demographic of the various candidates for president in both parties this cycle. 

The survey suggests that the Democratic Party’s favorable-unfavorable ratio among Asian-Americans has improved from 55-29 in 2014 to 66-19 today, even as the GOP’s ratio deteriorated from 39-39 two years ago to 31-46 now. There are a couple of likely explanations for this trend. For one thing, President Obama’s job approval numbers among Asian-Americans have significantly improved from 50-36 in 2014 to 67-23 now. And the Clinton-Trump choice seems to be a no-brainer for many of these voters.

Trump’s favorability ratio is a terrible 19-61. There’s not a huge amount of variation by nation of origin, either, in case you are wondering if the numbers are skewed by Muslims. Trump’s best national-origin category is Vietnamese at 22-57; his worst is Koreans at 10-80.

Meanwhile, Clinton’s favorability ratio is 62-26, with relatively uniform numbers across national-origin lines. Bernie Sanders, meanwhile, has a favorability ratio of 48-22. The Bern predictably spikes among 18-to-34-year-olds at 75-19, but it’s interesting that Clinton’s favorability ratio among young Asian-Americans is a not-so-bad 55-32.

All in all, these findings indicate that Asian-American political leanings much more closely resemble the 2012 exit polls than they do the 2014 exit polls, which one might expect in a presidential year when the choices at the top of the ticket are between one of the demographic’s favorite pols against one of its least favorite. To the extent that the Trump campaign winds up being primarily an expression of conservative white identity politics, the mogul isn’t likely to do much better among these and other nonwhite voters as the general election grows nigh.