Asian Americans are the fastest-growing group of eligible voters in the United States, increasing from 4.6 million in 2000 to 11.1 million in 2020, according to the Pew Research Center. And in Pennsylvania, one of the states that’s most likely to decide the presidential election, some 4 percent of the voting-age population is Asian American or Pacific Islander. Yet much mainstream political coverage ignores the importance of this crucial demographic.
Last month, we traveled across Pennsylvania, profiling 12 Asian American voters in the hopes of rectifying that problem. From a hospital manager to small-business owners, a first-time voter in high school to a former green-card holder and new citizen, a lifelong Republican to a newly declared Democrat, each of these voters lends insight into a complex and diverse community.
One of us (Eric Lee) is a second-generation Asian American who grew up in Brooklyn, New York. His inspiration for this project came from learning that his extended family didn’t speak to one another after arguing about politics. Some of his family members were born in the United States, while others are naturalized citizens who were born in China, leading to differences in their beliefs. Nearly two-thirds of Asian American eligible voters are immigrants, the largest proportion of any racial or ethnic group. When Lee was growing up, his family didn’t talk about politics much. But after the past four years of the Trump administration, events on Capitol Hill and at the White House are leading topics of discussion at the dinner table, during cousin FaceTimes, and in family text threads. Lee was curious: Do other Asian American families now talk politics more too, and if so, what issues are they debating?