U.S. Asians and Pacific Islanders view democracy with concern, AP-NORC/AAPI Data poll shows


A judge’s gavel rests on a copy of the Preamble to the U.S. Constitution, which rests on the U.S. flag

Associated Press

WASHINGTON — About 7 in 10 Asian American and Pacific Islanders in the United States believe the country is headed in the wrong direction and only about 1 in 10 believe democracy is working “extremely” or “very” well, according to a new poll from AAPI Data and The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.

About half say they disapprove of President Joe Biden, though more lean toward the Democratic Party than toward the Republicans. The poll shows Asian Americans are more likely to trust Democrats over Republicans to handle issues like the spread of misinformation, election administration, student debt and climate change, but slightly more likely to trust Republicans than Democrats on handling the economy and split on which is better suited to handle immigration. Many in the community trust neither party to handle major issues, especially election integrity and misinformation.

The poll is part of a series of surveys designed to reflect the views of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, whose attitudes and opinions can often not be analyzed in other surveys due to small sample sizes. It finds that the dour views among Asian Americans are broadly in line with the perspectives of the general public. In a December AP-NORC poll of U.S. adults, 75% said they believe the country is headed in the wrong direction. Asian Americans hold only a slightly more positive view of Biden than the general public, at 45% compared with 41% of all U.S. adults in December.

Cassie Villasin, a product manager in Washington, said she believed the country has gotten worse in recent years but said “that doesn’t necessarily mean it was all Joe Biden’s fault. I think that it was already going downhill prior to his election.” Villasin said she approved of Biden generally, citing issues like his handling of student loan debt.

Just 12% of Asian American adults believe U.S. democracy is working extremely or very well, though another 47% say it functions “somewhat” well. Three quarters said the views of most people living in the U.S. should matter significantly when enacting policy in the country. That is slightly higher than the number who said the same of the views of people from their similar background, at 64%, and substantially more who said the same of the opinions of policy makers, at 31%, or interest groups at 7%.

Joy Kobayashi, a retiree in California, said she feared Donald Trump’s potential reelection in 2024 signaled an “existential crisis for democracy” but that she believes U.S. democracy “is currently functioning quite well” because of the criminal indictments against the former president for various issues related to the 2020 election.

Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders are broadly skeptical of both parties’ presidential nominating processes. Only 27% have a high degree of confidence in the Democrats’ selection process and 20% feel the same for the Republican nominee process.

“I’m not going to say they are perfect,” Kobayashi, 63, said of the Democratic Party. “But they are much more for trying to fight to make voting convenient and not requiring things like photo ID or putting up artificial barriers.”

“I choose to believe that democracy is working, but I have my doubts,” said Ed Robertson, an independent in Arizona. Robertson said he believes the 2020 election was correctly decided but that “corruption” exists in all elections.

Will Chou, a Republican, said that American democracy had been “unchanged” as a system for at least the last 100 years. “I don’t think (democracy is) under threat. We have so many checks and balances and separation of powers, which are all structural elements of the Constitution. And I think it’s worked,” Chou said.
Chou, 55, said that he trusts Republicans to better handle elections and believes Democrats are “letting in millions of millions of people from outside and find ways to let these people vote.”

Concerns about misinformation were high, with 83% saying misinformation is a major issue in U.S. elections, surpassing concerns over election integrity issues or restrictions on free speech.

“It seems like more misinformation is spread through the Republican Party from my personal experiences,” Villasin said. “In terms of informing people with scientific evidence, or just evidence in general, it seems like the Democratic Party is more likely to provide that,” she said.

Chou said that misinformation is a major problem but believed that both Democrats and Republicans often spread false claims. Kobayashi, on the other hand, believes social media platforms restricting some information, including misinformation, is a “violation of free speech”, but not a major issue in U.S. politics.

The poll of 1,115 U.S. adults who are Asian, Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islanders was conducted Nov. 6-15, 2023

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