Clinton won every segment of the Asian American vote, but some political differences are emerging

RIVERSIDE, California – In 2016, Asian Americans posted record gains in voting, with more than 1.1 million new voters. By comparison, in the three prior presidential cycles, the average increase was about 620,000 new voters per presidential cycle, with the largest prior increase of 723,000 voters occurring in 2004.


The 2016 Post-Election National Asian American Survey (NAAS) was designed by a team of four researchers: Karthick Ramakrishnan, professor of political science and associate dean of the School of Public Policy at UC Riverside; Janelle Wong, professor of American studies and director of the Asian American Studies Program at the University of Maryland; Taeku Lee, professor of political science and law and associate director of the Haas Institute at UC Berkeley; and Jennifer Lee, Chancellor’s Fellow and professor of sociology at UC Irvine.

Key findings from the 2016 NAAS post-election survey:

  • When compared to the 2012 AAPI Post-Election Study, Clinton did about as well as Obama did among Asian American voters and won every segment of the Asian American vote
  • For the first time, the NAAS surveyed Bangladeshi and Pakistani American voters, and these groups show among the strongest levels of Democratic party identification and strongest support for Clinton over Trump
  • Despite record gains in voters, Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders were less likely than Whites or Blacks to be contacted by political parties
  • The most serious problems facing Asian Americans include the affordability of college, health care, and elder care
  • Asian Americans are progressive on various aspects of economic policy, but are more split when it comes to policies relating to undocumented immigrants


The survey was founded in 2008, and repeated in 2012 and 2016. It is a scientific and nonpartisan effort to poll the opinions of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, and is the only nationally representative academic survey of the political and social attitudes of this population. This survey was supported by a major grant from the National Science Foundation, with support for supplemental data collections from the Ford Foundation, California Immigration Research Initiative, and the Wallace H. Coulter Foundation. The authors are solely responsible for the content and analysis presented herein.

Telephone (landline and cell phone) surveys of 4,393 Asian Americans and comparison samples of Pacific Islanders, Whites, Latinos, and Blacks conducted between Nov. 10, 2016 and March 2, 2017. For the first time, the survey also includes nationally representative samples of Pakistani and Bangladeshi Americans.


The 2016 Post-Election National Asian American Survey is also distinctive from other surveys in the following ways:

1)    Unlike the National Exit Polls, which were conducted only in English and Spanish, the 2016 NAAS was conducted in the same languages, plus 11 Asian languages (Bangla, Cambodian, Cantonese, Hindi, Hmong, Japanese, Korean, Mandarin, Tagalog, Vietnamese, and Urdu). The 2016 NAAS found higher support for Clinton among English-language respondents (74%) than among Asian-language respondents (61%).

2)    Unlike the National Exit Poll, which is designed to be representative of the overall electorate, but not necessarily of smaller minority populations, the 2016 NAAS is designed to be nationally representative, with Asian respondents from 48 states and the District of Columbia. The 2016 NAAS found higher support for Clinton among English-language respondents (74%) than what the National Exit Poll found with respect to their English-language respondents (65%).

3)    Unlike the AALDEF exit poll of Asian Americans, which was conducted in high-density precincts with significant Asian American populations, the 2016 NAAS includes respondents from suburban areas as well as central cities. While the 2016 AALDEF exit poll found that 79% of their respondents voted for Clinton. By contrast, the 2016 NAAS finds that 69% of Asian Americans voted for Clinton.


The survey also contained important questions about racial identity, race relations, and experiences with discrimination.


Among other key findings of the survey:

  • In terms of relations with other groups, Asian Americans are more likely to have contact with Whites than with Blacks or Latinos; Chinese Americans report the least contact with other racial groups
  • The question of Asian American identity is contested, with South Asian groups (Indians and Pakistanis) finding it more challenging for American society to view them as Asian American
  • Experiences with discrimination and micro-aggression vary significantly across groups, and there has been an increase in job-related discrimination experiences for some groups since 2008