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Where are Asian Americans? United States politics strongly divided along lines of race and education

Views from the Edge

The divisions within America that have been on display the last week will likely be even more evident in November when the nation’s electorate votes for president between the Republicans’ Donald Trump and the presumptive Democratic nominee, former Vice President Joe Biden.


A portrait of the demographic, geographic and religious breakdowns within each party reveals changes within America’s two major parties that could drive them further apart, according to a new survey from the Pew Research Center.



Adding to the fears of white supremacists, over the last few decades, the American electorate and both of the two major parties have become less white. 


As more people take to streets to express their angst and anger at the death of George Floyd at the hands of four Minneapolis police officers, the unwillingness of white supremacists to live in a society where they no longer hold the position of power could threaten the the stability of the nation.



Refining the parties’ bases further, the groups that the Pew report identifies as the strongest for each side are nearly polar opposites: If we were to use broad strokes and paint a picture of the Trump supporter, he would be an older white man with a high school degree living in a rural part of the country, probably the South.



In contrast, the “typical” Democrat would be a young woman (could very well be a woman  of color), with some college education and living in the urban centers either on the West Coast or Northeast.


In surveys conducted in 1996, 85% of registered voters were whites who are not of Hispanic descent. In the 2018 and 2019 data, that figure stands at 69%. 


It has also dropped in both parties, but by a larger share among Democrats (from 76% to 59%) than among Republicans (from 94% to 81%). That is not due to fewer Democratic voters but more than likely because of the concerted effort to register voters of color.


Asian Americans included in the survey data have become increasingly Democratic in recent years, though, and now 72% consider themselves Democrats or Democratic-leaning independents vs. just 17% who say they are Republicans or Republican-leaners. The survey data, however, can only reflect the views of English-speaking Asian Americans because the surveys were not administered in other Asian languages.



Asian Americans are the fastest-growing segment of eligible voters out of the major racial and ethnic groups in the United States. More than 11 million will be able to vote this year, making up nearly 5% of the nation’s eligible voters, Pew reported in an earlier survey.


Even as the racial makeup of the electorate has changed, overall partisan leanings among whites, blacks and Latinos have held roughly steady in the last few years. In the most recent data, Republicans outpace Democrats among whites 53% to 42%, while Democrats hold a massive advantage among blacks (83% Democratic vs. 10% Republican) and a smaller but still substantial edge among Latinos (63% to 29%). 

Democrats hold an 80-point advantage in partisan affiliation among black women, Republicans have a 32-point edge in affiliation among white non-college men. Republicans have a 61-point lead in identification among white evangelicals, while Democrats have a 43-point lead among the religiously unaffiliated. And Democrats have a 49-point advantage among urban Northeasterners, while Republicans have a 27-point lead among rural Southerners.


Other findings of the Pew analysis:

  • Education and race. Just as the nation has become more racially and ethnically diverse, it also has become better educated. Still, just 36% of registered voters have a four-year college degree or more while a sizable majority (64%) has not completed college. Democrats increasingly dominate in party identification among white college graduates and maintain wide and long-standing advantages among black, Hispanic and Asian American voters. Republicans increasingly dominate in party affiliation among white non-college voters, who continue to make up a majority (57%) of all GOP voters.
  • The gender gap in party identification is as large as at any point in the past two decades: 56% of women align with the Democratic Party, compared with 42% of men. Gender differences are evident across subgroups: For example, women who have not completed college are 11 percentage points more likely than men to identify as Democrats or lean Democratic (51% to 40%). The gap is even wider among those who have at least a four-year degree (65% of women, 48% of men).

  • Age and generations. The electorate is slowly aging: A 52% majority of registered voters are ages 50 and older; in both 1996 and 2004, majorities of voters were younger than 50. Two decades ago, about four-in-ten voters in both parties were 50 and older; today, these voters make up a majority of Republicans (56%) and half of Democrats. Looking at the electorate through a generational lens, Millennials (ages 24 to 39 in 2020) are more Democratic leaning than older generations.

  • Religious affiliation. As the share of Christians in the population has declined, this is reflected differently in the composition of the partisan coalitions. Today, Christians make up about half of Democratic voters (52%); in 2008, about three-quarters of Democrats (73%) were Christians. The share of Democratic voters who are religiously unaffiliated has approximately doubled over this period (from 18% to 38%). The changes among Republicans have been far more modest: Christians constitute 79% of Republican voters, down from 87% in 2008.

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