The Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) electorate is a formidable community with the power to shape and influence elections down the ticket throughout the country. Though the AAPI electorate is projected to double from 5.9 million eligible voters in 2015 to 12.2 million eligible voters in 2040, the strength of AAPI voters in many states today have been, and continue to, make their voices heard and influence the political process.
In the last three presidential cycles, approximately 620,000 new AAPI voters entered the electorate, with eligible AAPI voters in various states making up more than 5% of the state’s electorate, including Nevada, Virginia, and California. It is increasingly clear that candidates and elected officials must understand our growing political power and address issues important to our communities.
Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders remain the fastest growing populations in the United States, at a rate of 46% and 40%, respectively, between the year of 2000 and 2010. This stands in comparison to a 10% population growth rate nationally. AAPI population growth partially stems from growing numbers of Asian immigrants, with more immigration coming from Asia since 2008 than any other part of the world.
While the largest AAPI populations continue to be in states like New York, California, and Hawaii, states that have seen the fastest-growing populations of AAPIs in recent years include Nevada, Arizona, and North Carolina. Nevada has seen a 140% increase in the AAPI population since 2000, 123% in Arizona, and a 115% increase in North Carolina.
Today, roughly one in four Congressional Districts more than 5% AAPI residents, and AAPIs exceed 5% of the population in nearly 600 cities and municipalities.
The decisions made by policymakers and our representatives at all levels of government impacts our day-to-day lives. However, if AAPIs aren’t at the table or in positions where they can influence policy decisions, our needs and voices are often ignored or forgotten.
There has been tremendous growth of AAPI representation throughout government. There are now over 600 AAPI elected officials throughout government at all levels, according to the National Asian Pacific American Political Almanac (15th ed). This includes positions in all branches of government, from legislative to judicial, local to federal. In the 2016 elections, there is an unprecedented number of AAPIs running for office across the country, including two AAPI women running for the U.S. Senate, and various new candidates for the House of Representatives.
AAPI voters are important because our voices in the political and policy discourse must reflect our priorities and needs—which may also be accomplished by electing more AAPIs to office.
The growth of AAPI influence and power extends beyond the political sphere, into all aspects of American society. For example, AAPIs are integral to the success of the American economy—Census data shows that the AAPI community contributes nearly $1.1 trillion to the economy every year, and AAPI owned businesses employ 3.6 million Americans across the country.
AAPIs as business owners, consumers, and active members of America’s economy have an important role in shaping the future of our collective communities. The decisions made by today’s leaders must reflect the growing needs and roles of AAPIs in American society, beginning with appreciating the power of our votes.