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Democrats Slipping With Asian-American Voters

GOP candidate Curtis Sliwa outperformed Democrat Eric Adams in majority-Asian districts in NYC mayor race

A voter casts their ballot at a polling station
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• November 16, 2021 3:30 pm

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Frustrated over left-leaning candidates' rejection of merit-based testing and gifted and talented education programs, Asian-American voters are turning away from the Democratic Party.

In recent elections, such as New York City's mayoral race and Virginia's gubernatorial race, Democrats have underperformed with Asian-American voters. Republican candidate Curtis Sliwa bested Democrat Eric Adams in majority-Asian districts in Brooklyn and Queens. And while exit polls reveal a majority of Asian Americans still back Democrats, the margin of support for liberal candidates over conservative ones is shrinking.

The Democratic Party's attempt to shore up support by using race and diversity issues to drive voter turnout has alienated Asian-American voters, according to New York Times opinion writer Jay Caspian Kang. The demographic shift has been driven by Asian Americans who value the implementation of standardized tests, as well as gifted and talented programs, and who back law enforcement. Some campaign signs targeting Asian Americans during the New York City mayoral race said Democrats promote "laziness," are pushing to "abolish merit-based SHSAT," and "label looting, burning, murder as peaceful protests," according to the New York Times.

Democrats' voter outreach to young Asian Americans has lagged behind their outreach to other ethnic groups. Only 43 percent of young Asian-American voters during the 2020 election were contacted by a member of the Biden campaign—the lowest outreach of any ethnic category, according to a Tufts University poll. By comparison, 61 percent of African-American youth, 55 percent of Latino youth, and 46 percent of white youth were contacted by the campaign.

The focus on black voters has often led to calls for representation through more black candidates. The election of Boston's first female Asian-American mayor in November disappointed some community leaders and activists, who said they would've preferred an African-American mayor. Former Massachusetts state representative Marie St. Fleur said the defeat of three black candidates to Mayor Michelle Wu during the primary was "troubling."

"For those of us born or raised in Boston, and who lived through some of the darker days, the fact that we blinked at this moment is sadness," St. Fleur said. "At what point in the city of Boston will we be able to vote—and I'm going to be very clear here—for a black person in that corner office?"

Published under: Democrats