Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Same Song, Different Verse

Recently, Steven Greene, whom I admire as a political scientist and whose blog I follow closely, posted on "Why Asian-Americans Are Democrats." I went to the original source, a SSRN article and sent this in an email to Steven:

I checked the article that you referenced by the political scientists and found it lacking. First, most of the support for Asian Americans being Democrats is based on the voting behavior of Asian Americans rather than their party identification. The support for Asian Americans identifying as Democrats from the ANES is based on extremely small samples (42 and 107). Furthermore, their statement about Asian Americans’ party identification is not supported by at least one of the sources they cite. Here is their quote:

Kuo, Alexander, Neil Malhotra, and Cecilia Hyunjung Mo, “Why Do Asian Americans Identify as Democrats? Testing Theories of Social Exclusion and Intergroup Solidarity.” SSRN. Feb 25, 2014: 11.
“More recent empirical work using larger, nationally representative or diverse samples of Asians, confirms that Asians are more likely to identify with the Democratic Party (Wong et al. 2011; Hajnal and Lee 2011).”

This is what Hajnal and Lee actually note about partisan attachments of Asian Americans:

Hajnal, Zoltan and Taeku Lee, Why Americans Don’t Join the Party, p. 158.

Table 5.4: (Non)Partisanship Among Hispanics and Asian Americans

Asian Americans
Source: 2006 Latino National Survey and 2008 National Asian American Survey

“In both the 2006 LNS and the 2008 National Asian American Survey (NAAS), only 44 percent of all respondents identified with one of the two major parties. For Latinos and Asian Americans, the two categories that studies of partisanship largely concentrate on are only a minority of the population. The response categories that are usually treated as a residual and dropped from a detailed analysis—which we pool together under the label “nonidentifiers”—are in fact the modal kind of response for these groups. This finding, importantly, is not limited to just these two surveys. Most previous surveys of Latinos and Asian Americans—for example, the 2001 Pilot National Asian American Survey, the 1989 Latino National Political Survey, and the Pew Hispanic Center’s 2002 National Survey of Latinos and 2004 National Survey of Latinos—all find that a majority or near-majority of respondents are either nonidentifiers or Independents.”

What Hajnal and Lee actually note is that Asian Americans are independents or nonidentifiers. Their voting behavior is not their party identification since only 30 percent identified with the Democratic Party in 2008, but 63 percent voted for Barack Obama in 2008. The statement by Kuo, Malhotra, and Mo is “true” but not really “accurate.” It neglects the fact that a majority of Asian Americans were independents or nonidentifiers—“no preference,” “none,” “neither,” “other,” “don’t know,” or some other mode of refusal to self-identify as Democrat, Republican, or Independent.

Here's his response:

Interesting points.  That said, I'm pretty sure you know where I stand on self-identified "independents."  Most of them are-- for all intents and purposes-- partisans.  And that very much seems to be the case with Asian-Americans.

I'm troubled by the response. The table, which is also the table used in Wong et al. cited above, states that 36 percent of Asian Americans are nonidentifiers. How are these partisans? The article is really about voting behavior of Asian Americans--not party identification. How does conflating the two concepts--party identification and voting behavior--help us understand contemporary political behavior? 


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