Although we have talked about Asian American voter apathy for years now, recent elections in places like Georgia are said to have swung based on increased Asian American voter turnout. Does that mean that Asian American civic involvement, which more than just voter turnout, is increasing? The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace looked at Asian American Civic Involvement in California. At a high level, it showed that Asian American civic involvement by surveyed Californians is “relatively muted,” but there is a lot of variation and nuance in that large generalization. Despite some methodological challenges that it acknowledges, the study is worth checking out if you are interested in looking at how Asian Americans are interacting with American civic life.
What exactly is civic involvement? As mentioned above, it is more than just voter turnout. Civic involvement includes activities like volunteering in community and other organizations, attending protests, and donating to candidates and political parties. While the overall conclusion was “muted” participation, there is notable variation between Asian Americans born in the US and those foreign born, as one example of nuance within the larger conclusion. The study also says that anecdotal evidence shows that Asian Americans are increasingly donating to political parties and candidates. I have seen this myself with Asian American political fund raisers in my neighborhood.
While this study has other interesting data points like participation in ethnic organizations, it acknowledges some methodological weaknesses. It gathered results through a survey that was only in English – missing the views and actions of those Asian Americans who do not speak English. It also points out, as we have mentioned, that while political parties are starting to court Asian Americans, a large number of Asian Americans have never been contacted by an organization. Is that the major cause of lower participation rates? I also wondered how specific aspects of Asian American civic involvement compared to that of the larger population.
This study is the fourth part of a five part study on Asian Americans political choices and social preferences in California. I didn’t know about this series until this article and will most likely summarize and comment on other parts of the series.