A New Political Force Emerges in Georgia: Asian-American Voters

Many new voters were drawn to the presidential race because it had loomed so large in American culture. But that also means they are no guarantee for Democrats in Georgia’s runoffs for two critical U.S. Senate seats in January, in which control of the upper chamber hangs in the balance.

“People are like, ‘What?’” said Cam Ashling, 40, a Democratic activist, referring to new voters’ responses when she raises the runoffs, which she referred to as “a giant uphill battle.”

She added: “We have to try very hard to keep Georgia blue. It is not solid.”

As a group nationally, Asian-Americans tend to prefer Democrats, but that masks deep differences by ethnic origin and generation. AAPI Data, a data analytics firm that focuses on Asian-Americans, has found that many Vietnamese immigrant voters lean Republican, for instance, while very few Bangladeshi voters do. And American-born Vietnamese voters lean less toward Republicans than do their foreign-born parents.

Two-thirds of all eligible Asian-American voters in 2018 were naturalized citizens, according to Pew, the highest ratio of any major racial or ethnic group.

“I would love to be a Republican, but right now they’re just crazy,” said Jae Song, 50, an IT worker who was picking up lunch at Vietvana Pho Noodle House in Duluth, an upscale town in Gwinnett County that is 24 percent Asian-American. Mr. Song, a Korean immigrant, said he loved Mr. Trump on the economy, but hated him on the coronavirus. His daughter in New York has had racist slurs flung at her. But he said he was also confused by Democrats’ priorities.

He had heard a lot of the phrase “Black lives matter,” and he understood that. But this also led him to wonder, “What about us?”

Surveys suggest a substantial increase in Asian-American votes this year, a jump that follows the expansion of the group’s population in the state. About 2.5 percent of Georgia’s voters were Asian-American this year, up from 1.6 percent in 2016.

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