Is immigration good for the Republican Party?
The second-largest heavily immigrant ethnic group, after Hispanics, are Asian-Americans. Immigration enthusiasts often claim they are "natural Republicans" because they are thought to be prosperous, law-abiding, family-oriented etc. etc.
The only problem with this theory: these natural Republicans have been voting Democratic.
The results of a massive multilingual Presidential election exit poll conducted last November in eight languages of almost 11,000 Asian voters, 82 percent of them immigrants, have finally been released by the liberal Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund.
The findings are exceptionally bad for the GOP.
Among these Asian voters, Kerry drubbed Bush 74-24.
This is not a perfectly representative sample, so the real figure probably wasn't quite so awful. The AALDEF exit poll was conducted in 23 cities in 8 states east of the Mississippi, only one of which (Virginia) voted for Bush.
Still, no less than 76 percent of Asians do live in "blue"—Democratic—states. And the dominant Asian state missing from the poll, California, where one out of every three Asian-Americans lives, went solidly Democratic. In the already-reported Edison-Mitofsky exit poll, Kerry won California's Asians 66-34. So Bush wouldn't have done all that much better if the whole country had been surveyed in this new poll.
Previously, the most publicized 2004 figure for Asian-Americans was from the troubled "national" version of the Edison-Mitofsky exit poll. It showed Kerry winning by a mere 56-44.
However, merely a few hundred Asians filled out the long questionnaire used in the national Edison-Mitofsky poll. Edison-Mitofsky's own data shows that among the much larger (and thus more reliable) sample who filled out either the short form or the long form, Bush captured only 39 percent.
Similarly, the Los Angeles Times' national Exit Poll showed Bush carrying only 34 percent of Asians.
Conclusion: although the exact figure isn't quite clear, Bush lost the Asian vote by a landslide.
Yet the President's father won a majority of Asians in 1992—even while losing the race. And Bob Dole appears to have edged Bill Clinton in 1996 among Asians.
So, although the GOP likes to imagine that immigrants will move toward them over time, the historical trend with Asians appears to be in the opposite direction.
And the future looks even worse. Among first-time voters in the AALDEF poll, Kerry won 78-20. Among American-born Asians, who are presumably more assimilated, Kerry was victorious 80-18. Among 18 to 29-year-old Asians, Kerry won 84-14.
Of particular interest to GOP strategists should be Bush's performance among South Asian voters (mostly Indians, Pakistanis, and Bangladeshis). They are the wealthiest, best educated, and, due to their English-language skills, the most articulate of the Asian immigrant nationalities. And, thus, increasingly the most influential.
While the Chinese and other East Asian immigrants come from reserved cultures that value harmony and tend to dislike electoral politics, the Asian Indians are more loquacious and opinionated. Thus we're seeing more South Asians in the American opinion media, such as Ramesh Ponnuru, Dinesh D'Souza, and the pseudonymous founders of the Gene Expression blog, just to name a few on the right. They won't be the last.
GOP strategists from Richard Nixon onward have focused on Jewish voters more than their small numbers might appears to warrant, because of the strong Jewish role in the media and campaign finance. Now they also need to start thinking hard about Indians.
Little data has been available before on South Asian voting, so the 2,700 South Asian participants in the AALDEF exit poll offer an important first look.
The result: among South Asians, Kerry clobbered Bush—90-9!
Maybe this is not nationally representative because Indians are more spread out across the country than other Asians, who cluster in blue states.
Milton Himmelfarb famously observed in the 1960s that Jews live like Episcopalians but vote like Puerto Ricans. If the AALDEF poll is at all accurate, South Asians live like Jews but vote like blacks.
This is terrible news for the GOP.
Why have Asians deserted the GOP? After the 2000 election, John Derbyshire wrote an insightful article for VDARE.com on the topic. I'd like to add another perspective drawn from my "affordable family formation" hypothesis.
In the last two Presidential elections, inland Republican states have been distinguished by lower housing costs and, not surprisingly, higher rates of being married and having babies among their white populations.
Two processes are going on: 1) The more family-oriented people tend to move to regions with affordable housing and good public schools, and they make those states more Republican because they vote on family values issues. And, 2), for people on the margin in their desire for marriage and family, the affordability of housing influences whether or not they start down the path toward marriage, children…and Republicanism.
Asian immigrants tend to prefer more expensive (and thus Democratic-voting) parts of the country. For example, the cost of living in California is now 51 percent above the national average—in large measure because housing costs are 130 percent higher.
High home prices are not as much of a deterrent to Asian immigrants because, on average, they don't feel they need as many square feet per family member. With their tendency toward extended families living together, they more often have three, four, or even five paychecks per household. They can outbid native-born American nuclear families with only one or two paychecks.
And this Asian influx, such as in the San Gabriel Valley east of Los Angeles, drives home prices up even higher.
The difficulty of affording a house puts added financial pressure on the natives to wait longer to marry—four of my seven closest friends from high school in L.A. didn't marry until after their fortieth birthday—and have fewer children.
This in turn makes them less likely to become Republican family-values type voters.
As the Asian immigrants become citizens and begin to vote, they look around for guidance from the native voters. My theory: not being particularly excited about politics, but highly sensitive to status signals, they notice that in their region, the Democrats are the prevailing party. So they join the crowd.
But what about the Asian immigrants' "strong family values"? Why don't they make Asians vote Republican?
The little-understood paradox is that many Asian immigrants cocoon their children within such all-enveloping extended families that they don't need much help from the government in insulating their kids from anti-family cultural threats.
They don't need laws to help them raise their children because they have such a strong web of customs.
For example, the West Asian immigrant family that lives on my block has lived within an insulated Old Country social world during their quarter-century in America. They entertain countless relatives, but never their neighbors.
(A study by Harvard political scientist Robert D. Putnam of Bowling Alone fame showed that a city's level of ethnic diversity is negatively correlated with its sense of community.)
In contrast, American-born nuclear families rightly feel more at risk from a corrosive culture. They therefore want their elected officials to validate the norms helpful in raising their children.
In every way, current mass immigration isn't helping them.
[Steve Sailer [email him] is founder of the Human Biodiversity Institute and movie critic for The American Conservative. His website www.iSteve.blogspot.com features his daily blog.]