The Times has just published a series of maps and charts focusing on New York City neighborhoods where most eligible voters are of Asian descent, including Sunset Park, Flushing and Manhattan’s Chinatown. Jason told me that he had started thinking about this subject after his father, who rarely talks about politics, said that he had voted for Zeldin. Later, Jason saw a post-election map of New York and was shocked to see that some of the Chinatown neighborhoods where he grew up were colored red.
As Aminta Kilawan-Narine, a community activist who was raised in South Richmond Hill, which is home to a large Indian American population, told Jason, “I’ve never seen so many signs for a Republican governor in the areas I grew up in.” She was one of the local leaders, academic researchers and political officials whom Jason interviewed, and he heard a few points repeatedly from those experts:
Republican campaigns have recently increased their outreach to Asian voters, while Democratic candidates had grown complacent.
Education issues hurt Democrats. Asian voters have been unhappy with proposals to change the rules for magnet high schools like Stuyvesant that admit children based on test scores. Many students at those schools come from lower-income Asian families.
Perhaps most important, the Republicans’ anti-crime message resonated, following increases in both citywide crime and anti-Asian violence. Lester Chang, a military veteran and a new Republican member of the New York State Assembly, said that the overwhelming reason he won a Brooklyn district — beating a Democratic incumbent who had held the seat for 36 years — was crime.
Asian Americans are politically diverse. The most heavily Democratic groups include those of Indian, Pakistani, Bangladeshi and Arab descent. The least Democratic group is Vietnamese Americans, followed by Korean, Cambodian and Filipino Americans.
Nationally, the rightward drift of Asian voters is connected to a new class divide in American politics. The Democratic Party, especially its liberal wing, has increasingly come to reflect the views of college-educated professionals. This development has had some benefits for Democrats, helping them win more suburban voters and flip Arizona and Georgia in recent elections.
To a growing number of working-class voters, however, the newly upscale version of the party has become less appealing. The trend has long been evident among white working-class voters, and many liberal analysts have claimed that it mostly reflects racial bigotry. But recent developments have weakened that argument. Class appears to be an important factor as well. Since 2018, more Asian and Latino voters have supported Republicans, and these voters appear to be disproportionately working-class.
The Pew Research Center has conducted a detailed analysis of the electorate and categorized about 8 percent of voters as belonging to “the progressive left.” This group spans all races, but it is disproportionately white — and upper-income. True, a large number of Democrats, including many Black voters, are more moderate. But the progressive left has an outsize impact partly because of its strong presence in institutions with access to political megaphones, like advocacy groups, universities, media organizations and Hollywood.
The Covid era
The shift of Asian and Latino voters has coincided with a period when the progressive left has become bolder and shaped the Democrats’ national image. The shift has also coincided with the pandemic and its aftermath.