The GOP Tax Reforms Won’t Win Over Asian Americans in 2018

BY JAIME ATILANO AND JANELLE WONG

President Trump recently traveled to Ohio to tout his recent tax reforms. Speaking to a small group of business owners in Cleveland, Trump assured attendees that the GOP tax plan would lead to Republican victories in the 2018 elections.

The GOP tax plan includes tax cuts for the rich and, according to the President, essentially repeals “Obamacare.” Some might assume that Asian Americans, a growing part of the U.S. political landscape, would be open to the kind of anti-tax agenda promoted by Trump. Even though Asian Americans have been trending Democratic over the past quarter-century, many assume that they are conservative at heart. Columnist Charles Murray states, for example, that Asians are “richer, more often in conservative-skewed professions, equally married, and less often divorced than non-Latino whites—all indicators that normally identify disproportionately conservative voters.” Some assume that fiscal conservatism among Asian Americans stems from their “natural entrepreneurship.”

But while it is true that about 1-out-of-3 immigrant small business owners is likely to be Asian American, the vast majority of Asian Americans are not small business owners. In fact, a 2012 report issued by the Fiscal Policy Institute showed that less than 5 percent of Asian American immigrants and less than 3  percent of U.S.-born Asian Americans was a small business owner. Only about 11% of Asian American immigrants were self-employed in 2014.

When it comes to fiscal and economic issues, data from the 2016 National Asian American Survey (NAAS) show that Asian Americans might be among the least conservative groups in the United States. In 2016, less than 16 percent of Asian American registered voters disagreed with raising the minimum wage, compared to 46% of registered voters more generally. Fully 60% percent of registered Asian Americans supported the Affordable Care Act, compared with 48% of general U.S. registered voters.

While differences in question wording may account for some of these differences, the trends are clear across issues and class. More than 80% of registered Asian American voters supported increasing taxes on people making over $1 million a year. Even among the very richest Asian American registered voters in the 2016 NAAS, (those making over $250,000 per year), fully 70% supported raising taxes on the richest Americans.

These trends are not recent. In an earlier 2012 NAAS survey, 65% of Asian Americans said they supported raising taxes on high earners in order to reduce budget deficits. And in another 2012 survey by Pew, about 55% of Asian Americans preferred a bigger government that provides more services to a smaller government that provides fewer services, compared with 41% of the general U.S. public.

So, although Trump may believe an  anti-tax platform and gutting Obamacare will lead to victories in 2018, these reforms will be a hard sell to Asian Americans in particular.

Jaime Atilano is an undergraduate at the University of Maryland, College Park
Janelle Wong is a Senior Researcher at AAPI Data