Investments in the AAPI Voting Bloc

We are in the middle of Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month and can’t help but reflect on the work over the past year with our partners through the 2020 primaries, GOTV, Election Day, the Georgia Runoffs, and the spike in attacks on the AAPI community.

Our leadership team at Public Wise have direct experience in electoral campaigns and know firsthand how the lack of disaggregated data of the AAPI Voting Bloc affects outreach during elections, and perhaps more importantly, building trust during non-election years.

While there are key datasets and the call for disaggregation like the ones found in AAPI Data and APIA Vote, we recognized the opportunity to add to the research provide grants to front line groups and funds+ support during the 2020 election cycle. Most recently we hosted a fundraiser in response to the Atlanta Spa shootings to benefit the long term work of the National Asian Pacific American’s Women Forum. 

A report from TargetSmart after the 2020 Election found an “an unprecedented surge in participation among Asian American/Pacific Islander (AAPI) voters.” This indicator marks the importance of investment in the emerging AAPI voter bloc. 

Here’s a quick overview of what we’ve done so far:

Made vote by mail easier for AAPI Voters in Georgia with the Asian American Advocacy Fund 

We helped translate their Vote By Mail campaign into Korean, Vietnamese, Traditional Chinese, and Hindi. The informational videos produced targeted AAPI voters in 5 counties in the Atlanta metro-area and provided funds to support their outreach efforts through WhatsApp.

According to APIA Vote, nearly 150k voters in 5 key counties voted in the primary.

Helped National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum (NAPAWF) adapt to COVID-safe GOTV Efforts.

Funds+ Digital Organizing Workshops

A $75,000 general operations grant helped support NAPAWF voter education and get-out-the-vote efforts.

The COVID19 pandemic posed a significant challenge to their traditional in-person organizing so Public Wise supported by helping procure hardware for four unstaffed NAPAWF chapters, connected the organization to C4 tables in Georgia and Arizona, provided digital organizing workshops to their membership in 14 states, provided financial and technical support and advised on their launch of a 501(c)(4) organization to complement the work of their existing 501(c)(3).

Learned about AAPI voter plans through a set of BIPOC focus groups in advance of the general election.

We conducted two focus groups of AAPI voters in Gwinnett, Dekalb and Fulton counties in Georgia, moderated by Tricia Juhn of Encanto Strategy.

Top Line Takeaways

Voting is associated with duty and difficulty. Respondents made transactional associations with the act of voting. They did not view voting as part of a larger fabric of building a country or future. However, nearly every respondent was dedicated to voting in the upcoming election. While respondents were open to other voting methods, they felt most confident their vote would be counted if they voted in person.

All 14 AAPI respondents said they preferred to be contacted in English; most felt they would be suspicious of any political materials in an AAPI language. Respondents agreed that Spanish is the main language to add to voting materials.

High propensity voters in the AAPI community also noted they had not received a lot of outreach in advance of the general election and they feared showing support for a specific candidate in case others in their respective communities disagreed.

Learned even more about AAPI non-voters through focus groups immediately after the 2020 election cycle.

In January 2021, we spoke to a group of AAPI non-voters in Georgia. 

Toplines

  • AAPI non-voters were not sure which party would best represent their interest.
  • Democracy is seen through the lens of how much better it is than in other countries, but participants acknowledged it is not as good as it could be.
  • Participants wanted to be acknowledged and heard regardless of race/background/etc (instead of being tokenized).
  • Outreach only happens at election time.

Quotes

  • “Another reason why I hadn’t voted … it feels like we’re invisible in this country”
  • Describing how he thinks politicians feel: “Ok. They’re Asian … they’ll be fine … they’re hard workers. You know, they’ll be set”
  • “We’re ignored most of the time”

Shared our Outrage and Grieved with Georgia after the Atlanta Spa Shootings

March 17, 2021 – Executive Director Statement in Response to the Atlanta Spa Shooting

Quote: Asians have a right to live, work, and be safe in our communities. And while it’s understandable that at a time like this, civic engagement is not at the front of our minds, building power in communities is most important in times of crisis. Our communities deserve leaders who work to protect them, to dispel misinformation that incites violence, and that fight for their safety and wellbeing.  – Christina Baal-Owens

Channeled our outrage into a star-studded fundraiser to talk about self care and allyship in the AAPI community while empowering the next generation.

Following the mass murder of eight women in Georgia, six of whom were Asian, NAPAWF’s Executive Director Sung Yeon Choimorrow said:

“We cannot ignore the fact that anti-Asian hate and violence disproportionately impacts women. More than 68 percent of reported incidents of anti-Asian harassment and violence have been from women. New polling commissioned by NAPAWF has revealed that nearly half of the Asian American and Pacific Islander women respondents had been affected by anti-Asian racism in the past two years. This comes as no surprise. Even before the pandemic and the racist scapegoating that came in its wake, AAPI women routinely experienced racialized misogyny. Now, our community, and particularly women, elders, and workers with low-wage jobs, are bearing the brunt of continued vilification.”

Sung Yeon has been a leader in sounding the alarm on white supremacy, anti-Asian racism, sexism, and sexual violence against Asian American women, and we are proud to support her leadership.

In response to NAPAWF’s needs of emergency funds to help bolster their team and respond in the short-term, while continuing to build power in the long-term, Public Wise decided to host a fundraiser.

Within a month and support from Michelle Kwan and Dennis Chen, Public Wise was able to pull together a star studded event in partnership with Onward Together and Way to Win, raising over $300,000 for NAPAWF. The event on April 21, 2021 featured Ella Jay Basco, Margaret Cho, Hillary Rodham Clinton, America Ferrera, Tan France, Maya Harris, Meena Harris, Michelle Kwan, Padma Lakshmi, Lucy Liu, Lea Salonga, George Takei, and BD Wong. (Full readout here.)

Additionally

  • We encourage you to donate to NAPAWF here. You can also reach out to me for more information or if you have questions about NAPAWF’s work.
  • A summary of NAPAWF’s recent work on anti-AAPI violence is here.
  • Watch Sung Yeon speak out against hypersexualization of Asian women on CBS here.

There is so much more work to do, but we at Public Wise are excited to have a running start.