BY ALTON WANG AND SONO SHAH
Disaggregated data tells us that Asian American subgroups have significant differences on a range of issues, including outcomes like educational attainment and poverty, and opinions on some policy issues and political preferences. However, differences in public opinion also exist between Asian American populations across different regions of the United States.
For instance, presidential vote choice in the 2016 election varied based on region. According to the National Asian American Survey, a greater share of Asian Americans voted for Donald Trump in the South (37% of Asian American voters who cast a ballot in 2016) than in other parts of the country. Put in another way, Hillary Clinton received the fewest share of votes from Asian Americans in the South (56%), and she found strongest support from Asian Americans in the Midwest (77%).
Regional differences also exist in terms of party identification. While more Asian Americans across the nation identify as Democrats or lean Democratic than as Republicans, Republicans have the greatest support within the Asian American electorate in the South. 27% of Asian Americans either identify as or lean Republican in the South, while 41% of Asian Americans in the South identify as Democrats or lean Democratic. In the West, Northeast, and Midwest, fewer than 20% of Asian Americans identify as Republican or leaning Republican.
But these regional differences exist beyond party politics—there are variations among Asian Americans in different parts of the country on policy issues and even experiences with discrimination. When faced with microaggressions, such as receiving poorer service than other people in restaurant or stores, 28% of Asian Americans in the Midwest report experiencing poorer service, compared to approximately 20% in the Northeast, 17% in the South, and 22% in the West.
In another example of microaggression, Asian Americans in the Midwest also report higher instances of being called names or being insulted (20%), with lower rates in the Northeast (12%), South (13%), and the West (13%).
In terms of other issues facing Asian American families, more than 44% of Asian Americans in the Midwest say that bullying in schools is a serious problem, compared to 34% of Asian Americans in the West and the South, and 30% of Asian Americans in the Northeast. More Asian Americans in the Midwest (65%) also report that college affordability is a serious issue, 18% more than Asian Americans in the Northeast (47% of Asian Americans in the Northeast say college affordability is a serious issue). And 50% of Asian Americans in the South and 54% in the West say that college affordability is a serious issue.
Difference also emerge with respect to elder care: More than 58% of Asian Americans in the Midwest view elder care as a serious issue, compared to 51% in the West, 43% in the South, and 44% in the Northeast.
On immigration policy, more than 66% of Asian Americans in the Midwest and 60% in the West agree that undocumented immigrants should be allowed to have an opportunity to eventually become U.S. citizens, while 53% of Asian Americans in the South and Northeast agree. Notably, nearly 37% of Asian Americans in the South disagree on giving undocumented immigrants a pathway to citizenship, higher than the rest of the nation.
However, on whether states should provide driver’s licenses to all residents, regardless of their immigration status, there is greatest support for such a policy in the Midwest (61%) and the South (58%) amongst Asian Americans. Only 48% of Asian Americans in the Northeast support such a policy, and 51% of Asian Americans in the West support residents obtaining driver’s licenses regardless of immigration status.
Finally, on the issue of allowing transgender people to use the bathroom of their identified gender, while significant majorities of Asian Americans in the Midwest (59%), Northeast (63%), and West (61%) favor such a policy, fewer Asian Americans in the South (42%) do. More Asian Americans in the South oppose such policies, with 30% in opposition, 10 points higher than Asian Americans in other regions.
While we know that the Asian American population is not monolithic by any means—disaggregated data on different ethnicities and subgroups demonstrates this—Asian Americans in different parts of the United States aren’t either. In different regions, Asian Americans face different challenges and have different opinions on critical issues facing our nation today. Differences in the composition of these communities in each region of the country also has a role—while in the West and Northeast there are larger East Asian populations, the Midwest has a significant population of Southeast Asians, while the South has a fast-growing South Asian population.
It is critical for our discussions of the Asian American community to be nuanced—not just broken down by ethnic group, but also addressing the unique experiences Asian Americans face in different parts of the country.