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PBI releases new poll on Asian American millennials

June 29, 2016

Survey by Pat Brown Institute highlights complexities of crucial voters and underscores challenges for party leaders

Asian American voters under 30 are reshaping Asian American participation, defying traditional voter stereotypes and posing a challenge to the Democratic and Republican parties, according to the findings of a new poll.

Younger Asian Americans hold liberal positions on public policy issues, but they are not necessarily inclined to align with Democrats or Republicans, according to the poll by the Pat Brown Institute for Public Affairs at Cal State LA and Asian Americans Advancing Justice.

Data from the poll was released this week at a media conference held at Cal State LA’s downtown L.A. campus. The event included a discussion with a panel that included Los Angeles City Councilmember David Ryu, MegaToys owner and PBI board member Charlie Woo, and Cal State LA Professor and Director of the Asian and Asian American Studies Program, Ping Yao.

The poll surveyed more than 1,600 registered voters in Los Angeles County and sheds new light on the political dynamics of Asian Americans, the fastest growing population in the United States and an increasingly important segment of the voting population in California and Los Angeles County. The poll also found marked differences in political participation between younger Asian Americans and their parents and confirms that Asian Americans cannot be viewed as a single block of voters. 

“These survey results represent a challenge to the leadership of both political parties. To say that Asian Americans are ‘liberal’ or ‘conservative’ is to miss the subtleties that will underlie the development of long-term partisan loyalties,” said Raphael Sonenshein, executive director of the Pat Brown Institute and director of the poll. “This is a wake-up call for Democrats and Republicans.”

According to the PBI Poll, those 18-29 were more likely than older Asian American voters to identify as Democrats and to take liberal positions on a number of public issues. They are participating in political activities to a higher degree. Younger Asian American registered voters were more likely than their elders to be native born, to be less religious  and to receive their news from English language media.  

California is the center of the Asian American community, especially Los Angeles County. More than a quarter of all California Asian Americans live in Los Angeles County, which has been called “the capital of Asian America.”  The survey includes significant numbers of Chinese-Americans, Japanese-Americans, Filipino-Americans, and Korean-Americans. 

“Combined with its unusually large sample of Asian American voters, this poll allows a more detailed analysis of political dynamics than many polls that have small samples of geographically scattered Asian Americans,” Sonenshein said.

Woo, who is founder and president of CAUSE noted, “This survey reinforces what many of us have been saying, that neither Democrats nor Republicans can take Asian American voters for granted.”

Photo: (l-r) PBI Executive Director Raphael Sonenshein, along with L.A. City Councilmember David Ryu, Cal State LA Professor and Director of the Asian and Asian American Studies Program, Ping Yao, and MegaToys owner and PBI board member Charlie Woo during a press and community event at Cal State LA’s DTLA campus. (Credit: J. Emilio Flores/Cal State LA)

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Cal State LA is a university dedicated to engagement, service, and the public good. Founded in 1947, the University serves more than 27,000 students and 247,000 distinguished alumni, who are as diverse as the city we serve. Located in the heart of Los Angeles, Cal State LA has long been recognized as an engine of economic and social mobility. Led by an award-winning faculty, the University offers nationally recognized programs in science, the arts, business, criminal justice, engineering, nursing, education and the humanities.

Cal State LA is home to the critically-acclaimed Luckman Fine Arts Complex, Pat Brown Institute for Public Affairs, Hertzberg-Davis Forensic Science Center, Hydrogen Research and Fueling Facility, Billie Jean King Sports Complex, TV, Film and Media Center and the Center for Engagement, Service, and the Public Good. For more information, visit