As The Asian American Population Grows in Texas, So Does Its Political Power

Political affiliations are changing for Asian voters, but most still identify as independent.

By Joy Diaz & Terri LangfordSeptember 7, 2020 10:00 am, ,

About 5% of the Texas population is Asian. While that number is small, some 1.5 million people, they are the fastest-growing ethnic group in the state.

“Our projections out of the Texas Demographics Center indicate that there could be close to 6 million Asians in Texas by 2050,” said Lila Valencia, a senior demographer with the Texas Demographic Center

“What we find is that most of the Asian community that live in the state of Texas are mostly Asian Indian or from Vietnam, China, with the exception of Taiwan. And then Filipino, Korean and Pakistani,” she said. “Those make up the larger shares of the Asian population in the state of Texas.” 

And with that rise in sheer numbers, more Asians are running for political office both in Texas and elsewhere in the country. 

“It’s been amazing,” said Christine Chen, executive director of the Washington-based group, APIA Vote, a nonpartisan organization that works to mobilize Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in electoral participation. “Just first start off with the presidential primaries, where we had three individuals. Kamala Harris, Andrew Yang, as well as Tulsi Gabbard.” 

Chen says there’s also an increase in the number of Asian American candidates running for Congress. 

But as Asian American numbers change, so have political leanings. In the past, Asian American voters have favored more conservative candidates, Chen said. 

“But then starting after 2000, we saw a shift where we’re seeing a lot more Asian American candidates run as Democratic on the Democratic ticket,” she said. “At the same time, there’s a shift in terms of their attitudes on different issues.”

Chen said that while there might be slight differences among different nationalities within this ethnic group – Vietnamese Americans and Filipino Americans are slightly more conservative, while Indian Americans and Japanese Americans tend to be more progressive – they are an important voting block that tends to land together behind one candidate. 

Preliminary data from APIA Vote’s upcoming 2020 poll results shows that 54% of Asians support former Vice President Joe Biden in the upcoming presidential election. Another 29% support President Donald Trump. 

Why is Texas’ Asian American population growing now? According to Valencia, for the same reasons most people come to Texas: the economy. 

“Even during the Great Recession, the recession was not as severe in the state of Texas, and we were able to come out of it a lot faster,” she said. “And a lot of migration, whether it’s migration from other countries or migration from other states, is largely driven by economic forces.”

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