Asian American Voting History

Documentary First Vote tells the stories of four Chinese-Americans who voted for the first time after gaining citizenship in the 2016 presidential election and the 2018 midterms. It tracks each person’s stories and perspectives on the political spectrum. I was very curious about Asian American’s political participation and their voting history after seeing discussions of the documentary.

Asian American voters are a small yet rapidly growing group in recent American elections, and consequently have a smaller voting history than most minority groups in the United States. It is not until WWII that the restriction on Asian descendants to become citizens began to be lifted. By 1952, most Asian immigrants became US citizens and gained the right to vote.

For my digital project, I plan on creating a website showcasing important trends and statistics in the voting history of Asian Americans. I wanted to use different visualization tools, such as Flourish and Tableau, to demonstrate various data collected from Asian American community voting. I wanted to make graphics with the help from the Unlimited Graphic Design Services, on important moments in Asian American voting history, such as the amount of time it took them to be able to vote, statistics on how groups of Asian Americans voted, and why they chose certain candidates and the overall percentage of Asian Americans who vote in every presidential year since the 1940s. Graphics would also feature prominent Asian American political figures who were voted in. I am also interested in outside influences that affect voting patterns, such as immigration flow.       

The availability of accessible data is an important factor. I initially wanted to conduct research on voting records from the 1950s to the present. However, I found out that most of the records that contain information on Asian American voters have only started since 1992. Before 1992, the percentage of Asian American voters to the whole voter population in the US was below 1 %. According to the Roper Center at Cornell University, from 1992 to 1996, the percentage of Asian American voters increased to 1%, from 2000 to 2008 the rate increased to 2%, 3% in 2012, and 4% from 2016 to 2020. In recent years, more studies and standardized exit polls have made great strides in piecing together modern Asian American participation in elections. For example, AAPI Data collaborated with the Asian Americans Advancing Justice and the Asian and Pacific Islander Vote organizations to release several reports on voter surveys from the recent presidential elections, focusing more specifically on the gender, ethnicity, age, and location of Asian American voters. I will be using data visualization on voting data after the 1990s and use other methods, such as infographics, to present voting history from the 1950s through the 1990s. Election exit polls from the Roper Center, The New York Times, Edison Research, and the survey from the AAPI Data are planned to be used in my research. 


Asian and Pacific Islander Vote


Asian Americans Advancing Justice

Roper Center 

Edison Research

The New York Times Exit Polls

One Reply to “Asian American Voting History”

  1. Mengshu, this is a really great idea for a project. I very much appreciate how you have connected the topic with a significant documentary film and how you have also drawn out a range of related sources. I think you have also identified valuable data visualization tools that you could use to support the project.

    I also appreciate how you have drawn out the central issue for figuring out work on this as being about finding the right kinds of data to work with. I do think this is an important question. With that noted, if you run into significant issues with sourcing the right kinds of data, I do think that there are a range of other directions you could take an interest in this topic/issue.

    One option could be to consider something like exploring Asian American voting history in a state like California which has had a longer history of having a major Asian American population.

    Another option could be to explore the history of discourse and discussion of Asian American voters and voting over time in digitized sources, like newspapers, over time.

    In any event, this is a great topic and I think you are on a good track to delve into exploring it and developing a compelling project.

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