Photo: National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum
Photo: National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum

Biggest study of AAPI women in history offers a glimpse into the future with newfound political power

The study from the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum comes after Asian-American voter turnout hit record levels in 2020.


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On Tuesday, Aug. 24, the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum (NAPAWF) released a study that examined the voting and policy priorities of Asian American and Pacific Islander women 50 and older.

The poll was conducted by The Harris Poll on behalf of NAPAWF, and it is the largest survey of AAPI women ever conducted. It involved interviews of over 3,537 adult AAPI women across the U.S.

Interviews were conducted online and via telephone from Feb. 1 to March 2, 2021, and participants were given the option to complete the survey in English, Mandarin, Korean, or Vietnamese.

NAPAWF sponsored the nationwide survey to explore and understand what inspires AAPI women to vote and the issues they care most about.

Voter turnout for the population reached record-breaking levels in the 2020 election, increasing more than 47% in 2020 compared to 2016, according to an analysis by TargetSmart.

Texas and Georgia in particular saw upwards of 71% and 84% increases, respectively.

According to NAPAWF’s survey, nearly 80% of AAPI women 50 years and older reported voting in the 2020 Presidential election, and a majority also reported voting in 2020 Senate, House, gubernatorial, and other local elections.

The study revealed that more than 70% of those surveyed feel it’s important for the Biden administration to strive towards ending discrimination against people due to their race, ethnicity, immigration status, sexual orientation, or gender identity.

They also want to see improvements in the criminal justice system with an eye toward racism.

This finding is not surprising, considering that the study also discovered 70% of these AAPI women 50 and older reported that anti-AAPI hate and racism has impacted their lives in some way.

More than 20% of Pacific Islander women 50 and older reported facing work harassment or discrimination, nearly 20% of East and South Asian Women in this age group feel unsafe walking outside, and over 20% of East Asian Women over 50 reported being called a racial slur.

“While Asian-American and Pacific Islander women experience new levels of political empowerment and civic engagement, we continue to be the targets of racism and hate, said Sung Yeon Choimorrow, Executive Director of NAPAWF, in a press release.

The rise in hate crimes that has been terrorizing AAPI communities since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic is just one reason why those surveyed want the Biden administration to know that their priorities differ from those of white women.

According to 2021 U.S Census Data, the Asian population in the U.S. grew by 35.5% over the past 10 years, making them the fastest growing racial group in the country. With this new information, state, local and federal governments must shift to start listening to the needs of these communities and enact policies that will meet their needs.

In a conversation with AL DÍA, Drishti Pillai, Research Manager at NAPAWF, said this piece of data was a really big takeaway from the study.

“I think it is understanding some of the cultural realities of being an AAPI, the fact that an immigrant population that [has] spent a large part of their lives in a different country,” Pillai said.

Pillai also said the revelation does not mean that white women do not care about issues such as the pandemic, it’s simply that it affects women of color, particularly AAPI women in a different way. 

“A white woman may not have to think twice about wearing a mask on a public bus and being called a racial slur the way that an East Asian woman would. So it’s just the more nuanced experiences that come with being a woman of color, an immigrant woman of color,” she said. 

Pillai also pointed out a separate NAPAWF study from earlier this year that found AAPI women experienced the largest long-term unemployment compared to all other racial groups. 

“And this goes back to the idea of having the responsibility to be a caregiver or caretaker in your home. Forty-four percent of all AAPI women that lost their jobs during the pandemic have been out of work for longer than six months,” she said. “So it has affected everyone, but it has just affected people in different ways.” 

The study also found that a significant proportion of AAPI women 50 and older also reported that their mental health had suffered as a result of COVID-19, and this is especially troubling as the community struggles more than others with stigmas surrounding mental health, as well as multiple barriers to mental health treatment. 

“The numbers were as high as 20% for East Asians, it was around 12% for South Asians. One in five is still too much and likely an underreporting because of the stigma, especially in AAPI communities. So even this number, we think is an undercount, and this is something that we would like to explore further,” Pillai said. 

With the increase in voter turnout and civic engagement among the population, as well as the steady rise in hate crimes and discrimination against AAPI communities, it is time for politicians to respond, quickly and appropriately.

“There must be a systemic and holistic effort to ensure that the unique priorities and needs of older AAPI women are seen, heard, and addressed,” the report reads.


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