Perceptual Barriers to Participation

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Perceptual Barriers to Asian American Political Participation:

An Analysis of the Six Major Subgroups

Erica Guardino

Old Dominion University


Asian Americans constitute a large and growing portion of the American population, and one that has more successfully acculturated than any other major immigrant group. With their above-average levels of education, income, and employment, Asian Americans are positioned to be a powerful political force. Yet they vote at the lowest levels of any major racial group (Black, White, Latino, and Asian). What explains this disparity? This study will argue that the overall low turnout rate among Asian Americans presents an overall average in turnout, with high variability among the major population subgroups. This variation between the Asian American subgroups can be explained by the barriers to participation that are perceived by each individual group. The perceived barriers most likely to affect the Asian American population include language, culture, and historical legacy. This study will show that these three barriers have an uneven effect across the voting eligible Asian American population, due to the heterogeneity of the group as a whole. Using data from the Pew Research Center, the United States Census Bureau, and an analysis of the latest peer reviewed literature, this study will determine the extent to which each of the six major Asian American subgroups (Chinese, Filipino, Indian, Vietnamese, Korean, and Japanese) are inhibited from participating in the political process. The conclusions drawn by this research could potentially impact mobilization efforts by politicians and party activists, as well as establish trends for future voter participation.

Keywords: Asian American political participation, voter turnout

Perceptual Barriers to Asian American Political Participation:

An Analysis of the Six Major Subgroups
When the demographic analyses come out after every major election, there is one trend that always remains constant. While changes in recent years have noted the rise in Black political participation and the greater number of Latino voters, the low levels of Asian American participation are virtually unchanged. What accounts for Asian Americans low rate of turnout in major elections? Why is it like this, and are there any barriers to impede their participation? The purpose of this report is to research the barriers that Asian Americans perceive as preventing them from politically participating in order to explain the historically low voter turnout.

This report employs the U.S. Census Bureau’s definition for “Asian American,” which corresponds to the Office of Management and Budget’s race identification guidelines. The U.S. Census Bureau defines Americans who are “Asian” as “a person having origins in any of the original peoples of the Far East, Southeast Asia, or the Indian subcontinent, including, for example, Cambodia, China, India, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, Pakistan, the Philippine Islands, Thailand, and Vietnam. The Asian population includes people who self-identified their race(s) as “Asian” or reported entries such as “Asian Indian,” “Chinese,” “Filipino,” “Korean,” “Japanese,” and “Vietnamese” or provided other detailed Asian responses”. The Asian Americans under consideration in this report are those who are either born in the country, or have immigrated to the United States and gained citizenship, and are eligible to vote.

According to the Pew Research Center’s recent study “The Rise of the Asian American,” Asian Americans can be broken down into seven smaller subgroups, based on population density: Chinese, Filipino, Indian, Vietnamese, Korean, Japanese, and those identifying themselves as “other Asian ethnicity”. For this report, the focus will be the top six groups (all those except “other”).

  1. Unique Among Minorities

Asian Americans are unique among other Americans for a number of reasons. As a group, Asian Americans as a whole are better educated, higher paid, and more satisfied with their lives and the direction of the country than other segments of the American population (Pew Research Center, 2013). They also suffer the least from residential segregation; that is, they are less isolated from other racial groups by residence and more likely to marry out of their race than other groups. Asians also make up the fastest growing segment of immigrants into the U.S. (Rama, 2012). According to Census Bureau data, Asian population has grown 45.6% between the 2000 and 2010 Census survey (as cited in Rama, 2012), and as of 2009 their immigration numbers surpassed the substantial Latin American figures. The Asian American population currently stands at about 18 million people.

  1. Participatory Characteristics

The political composition of Asian Americans is mixed, but tends to be more liberal rather than conservative. They consistently hold President Obama in higher regard than rest of the American public, and often support more liberal agenda items, such as same-sex marriage and abortion, although they do tend to be more conservative when it comes to illegal immigration (Pew Research Center, 2013). Altogether they are more supportive of an activist government, and half consider themselves Democrats or leaning Democratic, but 28% do identify as Republican or leaning Republican. The most curious aspect of Asian American political participation is their voting behavior. As Figure 1 shows, they historically hold the lowest rates of voter turnout in presidential elections, as compared to Whites, Blacks, and Latinos. For example, in the 2012 presidential election, the Current Population Survey (File, 2013) reported approximately 133 million votes cast, with less than 4 million cast by Asian Americans. With the alleviation of restrictive immigration policies in 1965 and the rapid rise of Asian immigration and naturalization, there will soon be more Asian Americans eligible to vote than ever before. What can account the for low turnout rate of Asian Americans today?
Literature Review
Given their income levels, educational attainments, and stable employment, Asian Americans should be among the nation’s most active political participants, yet they participate at remarkably low levels. Despite the perplexing, low levels of turnout for this demographic group, there is remarkably little in the literature that addresses this problem directly. Included here is a short summary of available research on this topic, including Ong and Scott’s (2009) work on weak social networks, Lien’s (2004) study of continuous immigration, and Rosenstone and Hansen’s (2003) argument on low strategic mobilization, which can be applied more generally to include the Asian American segment.

  1. Weak social networks- Ong

In Asian American Civic and Political Engagement: Patterns, Challenges, and Potentials (2009) Paul M. Ong and Megan Emiko Scott argue that weak civic participation among Asian Americans can be attributed to its large immigrant population. They contend that new immigrants lack the ability to develop connections to the community that facilitate great participation, such as joining a religious organization, civic league, or political party. Ong and Scott argue that the Asian American population is constantly being replenished by the foreign born, and that this unpredictable influx people and the institutional barriers they face make it difficult for them to construct the networks necessary to achieve political influence. As long as the group continues to be largely composed of immigrants, they argue, Asian Americans’ political participation will remain low.

  1. Continuous immigration- Lien

In Asian Americans and Voting Participation: Comparing Racial and Ethnic Differences in Recent U. S, Elections (2004) Pei-te Lien argues that it is U.S. born voters of Asian ethnicity that are the least engaged, while non-native Asian American voters are slightly more likely to both register and turn out to vote. He attributes this difference to a greater drive among new citizens to vote and a depressed participatory tendency among the native born.

  1. Low strategic mobilization- Rosenstone and Hansen

Steven J. Rosenstone and John Mark Hansen, in their classic work Mobilization, Participation, and Democracy in America (2003) contend that “political participation is the product of strategic interactions of citizens and leaders. (Citizens) participate when politicians, political parties, interest groups, and activists persuade them to get involved” (p. 228). While Rosenstone and Hansen make this argument with the greater American electorate in mind, the argument can be easily applied to help explain Asian American turnout. The strategic mobilization theory can be used here to explain the potential correlation between the lack of mobilization by either the Republicans or Democrats and Asian Americans’ low turnout rates.

  1. Language

Asian Americans make up a large and heterogeneous part of the U.S. population. There is great linguistic diversity, with more than 12 Indic and Asian languages being spoken in the home in addition to English (U.S. Census Bureau, 2010). Language can, however, be a barrier to acculturation and assimilation, especially for new immigrants. With 47% of Asian immigrants saying they have limited English proficiency (LEP), this population can find itself excluded from important aspects of American life that are traditionally easier for English-speakers, like voting (U.S. Census Bureau, 2010).

This section of the report will be devoted to understanding language, more precisely English language proficiency, as a perceived barrier to political participation. Issues of importance include immigrant status, lack of interpreters and translated materials available at polling places, and limited access to traditional sources of political information.

  1. Large immigrant population

Since the alleviation of restrictions on immigrants from Asia with the passage of the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965, the Asian American population has proliferated. Population growth post-1965 was dramatic, as can be seen in Figure 2: in the 1970s, the entire U.S. population grew by 11%; the Asian American portion of U.S. population grew by 141% (Tam Cho, 1999). Since then, the Asian American population has continued to grow and thrive, and is expected to grow to approximately 44 million by 2060 (File & Crissey, 2012).This growth will come from both native-born and immigrant groups, but at present it is immigrants who make up the vast majority, with 74% of Asian American adults being born outside the U.S. (Pew Research Center, 2013).

Although born abroad, this group is different from many other immigrant populations. They are more likely to enter the country legally and have a much shorter space of time between arrival and naturalization (Lien, 2001), as compared to other immigrant groups. If the Asian American population continues to grow as predicted, they are poised to be a valuable voting bloc.

Asians American voters can be found in all states but tend to be concentrated on the coasts, particularly in New York and California. Those settling in areas of the country where they are a smaller minority may feel isolated and uninfluential, but even those in areas of high population density experience barriers to joining the political process.

  1. Lack of translators at polls/translated ballots

After the passage for the Voting Rights Act of 1965, Asian American communities were still painfully underrepresented and under-registered. To encourage more registration and voting in the Asian American community, Congress enacted the Language Assistance Provisions of the Voting Rights Act in 1975. This Provision is applicable is covered jurisdictions: those in which 5% or more of its citizens do not “speak or understand English adequately enough to participate in the electoral process”) (Justice Department). Further, it compels such jurisdictions to

[P]rovide registration or voting notices, forms, instructions, assistance, or other materials of information relating to the electoral process, including ballots, (and) it shall provide them in the language of the applicable minority group as well as in the English language.

In theory, this meant providing ballots, procedural instructions, and other voting materials in native languages, as well as trained interpreters present to answer questions and assist LEP voters if necessary. Such services would be critical for the Asian American community to have the opportunity to participate fully. In practice, however, this law was often not well enforced, exposing the struggles of LEP voters. During the 2000 Presidential Elections, several precincts in New York reported incorrect Chinese translations listing candidates with the wrong party identification (Magpantay, 2004). New York voters also dealt with translated materials being largely unavailable and interpreters who did not speak the needed language or dialect for that precinct, or who simply refused to assist LEP voters (Magpantay, 2004).

Even with sufficient supplies of correctly translated documents and qualified interpreters, there is no guarantee that language would cease to be a perceived barrier to political participation. Having a poor understanding of English would prevent many immigrant voters from keeping up with the campaigns or following the news and issues relevant to the election.

  1. Limited access to traditional political channels of communication

Political leaders work to mobilize voters through both direct and indirect mobilization. Direct mobilization occurs when politicians and activists contact voters personally, and indirect mobilization is heavily dependent upon social networks, allowing the network to bring the information to the voter (Rosenstone & Hansen, 2003). In the Asian American community the language barrier can inhibit both forms of mobilization.

Traditional direct mobilization tactics include direct mail/email campaigns, televised ads, and requests for campaign donations. If the majority of voters in a candidate’s precinct speak English, it is unlikely that candidate will spend time and money producing literature and ads in any other language. Such apathy toward direct mobilization has consequences for indirect mobilization; if very few people in the minority’s social network speak English well enough to understand the political process, they will not be able to influence others indirectly (Rosenstone & Hansen, 2003)

How do Asian Americans receive information about politics? When a minority’s native language is used it can serve both the political candidate and the voters. For example, a Cantonese radio talk show sponsored by the San Francisco Neighborhood Association provided an outlet to the politically isolated Asian American community and allowed mobilization and more media attention for the candidates who were able to reach this audience (Lien, 2001).

In addition to considering where Asian Americans learn about their cultures, both American and Asian, and get their information it is important to consider what information they are receiving. What are Asian Americans telling themselves about their cultural identity and what are they learning about themselves from popular American culture? The way Asian Americans view themselves and their culture can be a perceived barrier to participation.

  1. Culture

  1. Asian Culture in America

The history of American politics has not been kind to minorities. There are examples of discrimination and disenfranchisement in American participatory politics dating before the ideological founding of the nation in 1776 (Lien, 2001). Asians have been in America since its earliest days, dating back to the entry of Filipino and Chinese sailors on Spanish galleons in 1635 to the first documented entry of Chinese workers in 1785 (Ong, 2003). It was not until the passage of the Fifteenth Amendment 85 years later that Chinese men were legally eligible to vote; Chinese women would have to wait another 50 years (Ong, 2003).

  1. Cultural norms for women

Even with de jure voting rights, it is clear that not all Asians have chosen to participate. Asian cultural norms and gender expectations provide a valuable insight into this phenomenon. Voting in America was strictly a man’s activity for a long time. In fact, White men are still the dominate voice in American politics (Lien, 2001), making the entrance of minorities, especially minority women, into politics seem like a daunting task.

Asian women experience this barrier from within their own cultural traditions. According to DasGupta & Das Dasgupta (2000, p. 327) the traditional Asian American woman is “…chaste, modest, nurturing, obedient, and loyal” with “the entire community (resting its validity) upon the submissiveness of the community’s women.” When Asian American women do decide to become politically active, they are viewed as traitors to their families and cultures, according to DasGupta & Das Dasgupta (2000). This perceived obligation to uphold traditional norms (read: stay quiet) is helpful in explaining Asian American women’s low voter turnout rates, but what is the explanation behind Asian American men’s equally low turnout (File, 2013)?

  1. Cultural norms for men

Asian American men have held the right to vote longer, and therefore have a stronger habit of participation than their female counterparts. Men’s participation would be viewed as more acceptable behavior, both by Asian and American cultural standards. The traditional Asian male perceives himself as possessed with “masculine qualities of originality, daring, physical courage, creativity” values that must inadvertently perpetuate the subjugation of their female counterparts to be sustained (Cheung, 2000, p. 310). This is starkly different from the way Americans stereotypically view Asian and Asian-American males. Hollywood has represented Asian men as quiet, submissive nerds (Cheung, 2000; DasGupta & Das Dasgupta, 2000), not men who express their political prowess by taking action at the polls. Asian American men and women are being told from inside and out that voicing their opinion is inappropriate and unwelcome.

Historically, Asian Americans have been forced to deal with discriminatory treatment that goes beyond the subtle suggestion to stay home on Election Day. Since their earliest entry into America, they have dealt with a legacy of discrimination encompassing cultural subjugation and a barrage of legal action designed to keep Asian Americans from joining American society and becoming participatory citizens.

  1. Legacy of Discrimination

  1. Analyze historical legacy as a perceived barrier to participation

For this study, it is simplest to discuss anti-Asian discrimination and Asian American disenfranchisement by examining two broad periods of time: 1785-1964 and 1965-present. The first period highlights legal barriers to participation and accounts of blatant racism. After the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965, Americans’ perception of Asian Americans began to shift and their racism became more subtle. Since 1965, racism against Asian Americans has been based on the “model minority” concept.

  1. Exclusion and Explusion,1790-1964

The history of discrimination against Asians in America goes back to the time of the nation’s founding. The first Asian to arrive in the United States of America did so in 1785. After five brief years of immigration from the Asian Pacific into the newly founded nation, legal barriers were established to prevent the threat of a growing Asian American presence. In 1790, the Naturalization Act “stated that ‘only free white men’ could become U.S. citizens” (Ong, 2003).This did not deter Asians, mostly Chinese, from continuing to immigrate. By 1851 25,000 Chinese (mostly) men had come to America, many settling on the West Coast (LoC). In response, Chinese people were banned from voting in Washington State in 1852, and it enacted a poll tax to prevent all Asians from voting in 1864 (Ong, 2003). It was not long before the Chinese were legally barred from entry into the U.S., with the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882.
The Japanese also suffered greatly under the legal barriers thrown in their path at the turn of the century. In 1894 a Massachusetts Circuit Court ruled Japanese were ineligible for naturalization, followed in 1907 by the Gentlemen’s Agreement, which barred Japanese men from entering America (Ong, 2003)Perhaps the most flagrant example of Japanese Americans’ disenfranchisement came in February 1942 with Executive Order 9066, “which empowers the Secretary of War or any military commander authorized by him to designate ‘military areas’ and exclude ‘any and all persons’ from them” (National Archives and Records Administration) with the full knowledge that “liberty may be temporarily affected by such action.” This order was reinforced by Executive Order 9102 on March 18, 1942, which established the War Relocation Authority and empowered it “to provide for the removal from designated areas of (Japanese) persons whose removal is necessary in the interests of national security….” Relocation of Japanese civilians to internment camps began four days later.

  1. Racial discrimination

The most infamous anti-Asian hate crime in recent memory is the murder of Vincent Chin. During the early 1980s as the Japanese economy was on the rise and the American economy was suffering from slow domestic automobile sales, the racial atmosphere in Detroit, MI, grew increasingly tense. In the summer of 1982 two White men, both laid-off auto workers, began shouting racial slurs and threats at a Chinese American man named Chin, resulting in a brawl that ultimately led to Chin’s brutal beating and murder by the two men. Their stated motive for the killing of Chin was his Asian appearance and their dissatisfaction with being unemployed (Zia, 2000, p. 59). When Chin’s attackers were given probation and a fine, it was obvious that some citizens were more valuable than others (Zia, 2000, p.60).

Chin’s death was both racially and politically motivated, and frightened the city’s Asian American community. In addition to highlighting the racial tensions palpable in the city at that time, the murder brought attention to the disorganization of the local Asian American community. There was no political infrastructure in place to react effectively to such an event; the community had been living in justified fear of taking political action.

  1. Model Minority 1965-Present

The peculiar shift in the popular understanding of Asian Americans occurred after 1965, when waves of new immigrants began to arrive. Americans began to see the new Asian American communities as somehow different from previous generations and from other immigrant groups. They have been elevated “from pariah to paragon” (Chou, 2008, p. 222) and are now referred to as the “model minority”.

The “model minority” is a group of people not of the dominant (White) race who have achieved enough educational and economic success to be considered a good example to other, less successful minorities and more acceptable to the dominant group (Zia, 2000). In America, this is used to describe Asian Americans. The myth implies that by submitting to the predominant American culture, Asian Americans have thrown off their cultural shackles, achieved success under the American system, and accepted the status quo. Expressing a contending political opinion would be illogical and unnecessary after such a total assimilation. This myth reflects a warped sense of reality that has been damaging to the psychological well-being of many Asian Americans, especially young adults (Kim & Lee, 2014). Having been subjected to this stereotype for so long, many Asian Americans have internalized the myth and become less able to speak out or express their own point of view. When Asian Americans are told their culture and their opinions are not valuable to the American system, they are less likely to participate in that system.

The barriers discussed so far (language, culture, and legacy of discrimination) have been helpful in understanding the Asian American population as a whole, but has not yet examined the low turnout of particular subgroups of Asian America. With the vast array of ethnicities and sub-cultures within the Asian American community, this report argues that each group will be impacted differently. To provide a baseline understanding of participation rates, the Pew Research Center (2013) reports that 66% Asian Americans self-reported voting in 2008; the general public’s average was 70%. Additional data could be collected using a survey (see Appendix A) and analyzed for further confirmation. The survey results would likely support the research, proving a correlation between perceived barriers to voting and actual voting behavior. The following section will explore how language, culture, and legacy have affected each of the six major subgroups.


  1. Chinese

As the earliest immigrants of Asian descent to the United States, the Chinese have dealt with a long history of anti-immigration, anti-miscegenation, and anti-naturalization laws intended to isolate the Chinese community. The severe restrictions on immigration, marriage, residence, employment, and voting rights have created a community that is more insular than that of many other minorities, although they constitute one quarter of the Asian American population (Pew Research Center, 2013). This forced insularity has helped create large enclaves of the Chinese American community that do not trust people of other races; they also have the second highest levels of LEP among Asian American groups (48.1% state they speak English less than “very well”). Their cultural and linguistic isolation, coupled with a long history of suffering racism, discrimination, and disenfranchisement can be used to account for their lower-than-average electoral participation. 64% of Asian Americans of Chinese descent report having voted in 2008 (Pew Research Center, 2013).

  1. Filipino

Filipino immigration to the United States began when this country acquired the Philippines as a colony in 1898. They did not suffer the same immigration restrictions faced by their Chinese and Japanese contemporaries, until the legal status of the Philippine islands changed from colony to commonwealth in 1934. They have also suffered less in the way of race-based violence, with the best known incident of anti-Filipino violence being perpetrated just before the change in the immigration laws by the White extremist group the Ku Klux Klan (Zia, 2000). Restrictions on immigrants from the Philippines were lifted in 1965, and the community was able to maintain relative stability. Today, Filipinos are upbeat about their relationships with other races and about the nation as a whole, with only 23.8% stating that they speak English less than “very well”. Their more positive feelings about the U.S. and their history of fairly stable immigration can be used to account for their high turnout rate of 70% in 2008 (Pew Research Center, 2013).

  1. Indian

Indians were allowed to immigrate to the United States without restrictions between 1904 and 1923. Most Indians came to the U.S. to work and were considered Caucasians from 1910-1923, when the Supreme Court overturned their previous opinion (Ong, 2003). While Indians have not suffered the same level of violent racism as the Chinese, their long standing cultural traditions and strong family values, as is shown in Figure 3, have created a similar form of self-imposed insularity. This group also professes a LEP rate of 48.1% and has a similarly low voting rate of 63% in the 2008 election, just below that of the Chinese Americans (Pew Research Center, 2013). Their strong sense of community and the importance of traditional family values can account for their low rate of participation.

  1. Vietnamese

Large-scale immigration from Vietnam came in the wake of the Vietnam War (1956-1975). Large numbers of Vietnamese refugees were evacuated, and the current wave of immigrants from Vietnam arrives on family unification visas. Although they have significantly lower levels of income, education, and English proficiency (59.5% LEP) as compared to other Asian Americans, this subgroup has the highest rate of naturalization, and is more likely to agree with the values of hard work and a more positive future for their children. The balance between these institutional barriers and their positive outlook on the American participatory system can explain their voting rate of 63% in 2008 (Pew Research Center, 2013).

  1. Korean

Like most Asian Americans, Koreans first immigrated to the U.S. as workers in the late 19th and early 20th century. They have experienced racially motivated violence in much the same way Chinese and Japanese citizens have, although violence against Korean Americans is especially prevalent during difficult economic times and is often community-based. Korean Americans report having the least positive view of other races, especially Blacks and Latinos; 57% say they have “negative views on their group’s relations with Blacks” (see Figure 4). This outlook may be a contributing factor to their English language proficiency (46% LEP).

The best example of Korean Americans’ acculturation is their overwhelming commitment to Protestantism. 61% of Asian Americans of Korean descent identify as Protestant, a larger proportion than even the general population (50%) (Pew Research Center, 2013). The only other Asian American subgroup that comes close in terms of Christian identification is Filipino Americans, who identify as Catholic at a rate of 65%. The balance between distrust of Americans outside the Korean American community and their strong identification with the majority religion of the U.S. can be used to explain their just-below-average voting rate of 65% (Pew Research Center, 2013).

  1. Japanese

Japanese Americans are the smallest Asian American subgroup (7% of this population) but they have the highest level of English proficiency (81.8% speak English “very well”) and the highest level of voter participation (76%), higher than the turnout levels for Asian Americans (66%) and the general population (70%) (Pew Research Center, 2013). These anomalies can best be described by returning to the first and largest subgroup, the Chinese Americans. Japanese immigrants arrived in America in the 19th century, later than the Chinese but earlier than any other Asian subgroup. They often performed similar work (farming, mining) and were often able to exploit the legal hardships facing the Chinese. For example, American industrialists saw the Japanese as suitable substitutes for their Chinese workers after the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, and their wives were allowed to immigrate without restriction. The Japanese were not without barriers to participation, however.

In response to their forced internment (1942-1945), Japanese Americans responded by consenting to the new laws, encouraging their children to marry out of the Japanese community, and urging their young men to join the war effort in an attempt to prove their loyalty to the country. This tendency toward assimilation and acceptance of the dominant culture can still be seen today: half of all Japanese Americans marry outside their race (see Figure 5) and almost 80% of all U.S. Japanese are America citizens. Japanese Americans are unique in their strong commitment to joining American society and the connection shows in their high levels of political participation.


The purpose of this study was to research the barriers that Asian Americans perceive as preventing them from politically participating in order to explain their historically low voter turnout. After reviewing literature from across many disciplines, such as Asian American studies and American political behavior, it became apparent that there were at least three major barriers faced by Asian Americans: language, culture, and a legacy of discrimination. These three barriers were then used to analyze the voting behavior of the six major subgroups of Asian Americans: Chinese, Filipino, Indian, Vietnamese, Korean, and Japanese.

When each subgroup is considered individually, it became obvious that each group has their own distinct voting patterns that are quite different from the general number given for Asian Americans as a whole. The groups’ perceptions of themselves, their experience with other racial groups in American society, and especially their degree of English language proficiency were shown to shape each group’s rate of political participation. The connection was especially strong between understanding of English and political participation.

Asian Americans are a complicated and rapidly expanding demographic. As their numbers continue to grow, both through birth and immigration, their importance will become more apparent to the political elites. As more and more Asian Americans join the voting age population, their opinions will need to be heard. It would be wise of politicians, party leaders, and other political activists to begin finding ways into these communities and working to mobilize their members.

Asian Americans are too diverse to be considered as a single entity in traditional calculations of political participation. The old classifications (“White”, “Black”) must be readjusted in order to remain reflective of this voting demographic. Political scientists should research differences across subgroup lines if we are to accurately understand “Asian American” voters and how or whether or not they choose to vote.

Appendix A

Perceptual Barriers to Asian American Political Participation:

An Analysis of the Six Major Subgroups

Participant Survey

Please answer the following questions to the best of your ability. Circle the response that best suits your answer. Your information will remain confidential.

  1. Are you at least 18 years of age?


  1. How do you identify yourself?








Other (please specify):

  1. How would you describe your level of English proficiency?

Excellent (fluent)


Less than proficient/conversational

Not sure

  1. Are you a registered voter?


  1. Did you vote in the last election?


  1. Will you vote in the next election?


  1. Does your family participate in politics?


  1. Have you ever had encountered a problem voting at your local polling place?


  1. How important is your “traditional” culture to your daily life?

Very important


Neither important nor unimportant


Very Unimportant

  1. Do you think your race has ever impacted you negatively?


  1. Have you ever received a racially based threat?


If you answered “yes” to any of the above questions, please provide additional details in the space below:


About Language Minority Voting Rights. (n.d.). Civil Rights Division Home Page. Retrieved May 4, 2014, from

Cheung, K. (2000). The woman warrior versus the Chinaman pacific: Must a Chinese American critic choose between feminism and heroism?. In J. Wu & M. Song (Eds.), Asian American studies: A reader (1st ed., pp. 307-323). Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press.

Chou, C. (2008). Critique on the notion of model minority: An alternative racism to Asian American?. Asian Ethnicity, 9(3), 219-229. doi: 10.1080/14631360802349239

DasGupta, S., & Das Dasgupta, S. (2000). Women in exile: Gender relations in the Asian Indian community in the United States. In J. Wu & M. Song (Eds.), Asian American studies: A reader (pp. 324-337). Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press.

File, T., & Crissey, S. U.S. Census Bureau, Economics and Statistics Administration. (2012). Voting and registration in the election of November 2008 (P20-562RV). Retrieved from Current Population Survey Reports website:

File, T. U.S. Census Bureau, Social, Economic, and Housing Statistics Division. (2013). The diversifying electorate--voting rates by race and Hispanic origin in 2012 (and other recent elections) (P20-569). Retrieved from Current Population Survey Reports website:

Kim, P., & Lee, D. (2014). Internalized model minority myth, Asian values, and help-seeking attitudes among Asian American students. Cultural Diversity and Ethnic Minority Psychology, 20(1), 98-106. doi:10.1037/a0033351

Lien, P. (2001). Voting participation: Race, gender, and the comparative status of Asian American women. In G. Chang (Ed.), Asian Americans and politics: Perspectives, experiences, prospects (pp. 79-101, 173-193). Washington, DC: Woodrow Wilson Center Press.

Lien, P. (2004). Asian Americans and voting participation: Comparing racial and ethnic differences in recent U.S. elections. International Migration Review, 38(2), 493-517.

Magpantay, G. D. (2004). Asian American access to the vote: The language assistance provisions (Section 203) of the Voting Rights Act and beyond. Asian American Law Journal, 11(1), 31-56. Retrieved from

National Archives and Records Administration, Harry S. Truman Library and Museum. (n.d.). The War Relocation Authority & the incarceration of Japanese-Americans during WWII. Retrieved from website:

Ong, E. (2003). Transcending the bamboo and glass ceilings: Defining the trajectory to empower Asian Pacific Islander American women in politics. In D. Nakanishi & J. Lai (Eds.), Asian American politics: law, participation, and politics (p. 331-354). Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc.

Ong, P. M., & Scott, M. E. (2009). Asian American civic and political engagement: Patterns, challenges, and potentials. Asian American Policy Review, 18, 25-34.

Passel, J. S., & Cohn, D. (2008, February 11). U.S. population projections: 2005-2050. Retrieved from Pew Research Hispanic Trends Project website:

Pew Research Center’s Social & Demographic Trends. (2013). The rise of Asian Americans [report and data sets]. Retrieved from

Rama, P. (Producer) (2012). U.S. Census show Asians are fastest growing racial group [Radio series episode]. In the two-way. America: NPR. Retrieved from

Rosenstone, S., & Hansen, J. (2003). Mobilization, participation, and democracy in America. (pp. 71-127, 228-248). New York, NY: Pearson Education, Inc.

Tam Cho, W. K. (1999). Naturalization, Socialization, Participation: Immigrants and (Non-) Voting. Journal of Politics, 61(4), 1140.

U.S. Census Bureau. (2010). Detailed language spoken at home and ability to speak English for the population 5 years and older by states: 2006-2008 (ACS) [Excel Table 1 Detailed Tables]. Retrieved from

U.S. Census Bureau. (2012). Projections of the Population by Sex, Race, and Hispanic Origin for the United States: 2015 to 2060 [Excel Table 4 Middle Series]. Retrieved from

Zia, H. (2000). Asian American dreams: The emergence of an American people. (pp. 55-81). New York, NY: Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

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