Political Science Professor’s New Book Based on First-Ever National Survey of Asian American Politics

By Staci Wilson, CHASS Dean’s Office Student Intern
March 7, 2012

“Asian American Political Participation: Emerging Constituents and Their Political Identities” was co-authored by professors Janelle Wong (USC), Taeku Lee (UC Berkeley), Jane Junn (Rutgers), and UC Riverside’s Karthick Ramakrishnan. Released in fall 2011 by the Russell Sage Foundation, a research center dedicated to studies in the social sciences, the book has been recognized as “the most comprehensive study to date of Asian American political behavior.” ¹

The book is based on a multi-lingual national study conducted by the co-authors beginning in 2008, when they surveyed over 5,000 Asian Americans across the country from a range of national backgrounds. Although Asian Americans constitute only about five percent of the US population, they do represent a rapidly growing, well-educated, and politically active sector. As Professor Ramakrishnan says, however, “there's not a lot of attention being paid to Asian Americans, even though they have experienced the most dramatic shift in their political patterns over the past two decades, and their rates of campaign contribution and naturalization are among the highest in the country.”

Though media polls were conducted prior to the 2008 presidential election in order to predict Asian American participation, the results of such polls were flawed in that they were offered only in English and Spanish, did not comprise a nationally representative sample of the population, and relied on speculation for explanations of causation (all factors Ramakrishnan and his associates recognized and sought to correct for in their own work). In the end, they found, race did not play a very significant role among Asian American voters in the 2008 primaries, (as President Obama’s projected “Asian problem” suggested at the time). Factors such as name recognition and strength of party identification, however, did. The professors were also able to collect a series of data exploring the relatively low level of party affiliation among Asian Americans, differences in political participation and the motives behind it, as well as protest participation. Their book concentrates on a set of five factors: immigrant socialization, residential contexts, party socialization, racial identification, and civic association.

In addition to the book, presentations and reports from the survey have been downloaded over 8,000 times so far, and can be accessed at http://www.naasurvey.com/.

It is Professor Ramakrishnan’s goal to inspire further in depth research of this kind, and to get campaigns to do more outreach. “Parties and interest groups,” he says, “are not doing enough to reach out to these voters,” and that is a missed opportunity, not only for votes, but also campaign contributions from the well-off segment of the Asian American community.


¹ http://www.russellsage.org/about/press-releases/press-release-asian-american-political-participation

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