Filipino Americans and the US elections: What’s on their minds?

Don Kevin Hapal

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Filipino Americans and the US elections: What’s on their minds?
From candidate favorability to opinions on key US policies – take a look at what the 2016 National Asian American Survey reveals about Filipino American (Fil-Am) voters

MANILA, Philippines – In a 2013 demographics study, Pew Research Center identified Filipinos as the second largest Asian American group in the US, numbering more than 3.4 million. 

With the US election season now in full swing, the political presence of Asian Americans has also grown significantly, as shown by the increase in the number of registered voters and candidates for various local and state positions.

The 2016 National Asian American Survey (NAAS), a scientific and nonpartisan effort looking into the opinions of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, was released on October 5, revealing some interesting findings about this fast-rising cultural group and their thoughts about the US elections, the candidates, and key US issues.

Let’s take a look at what the NAAS survey reveals about Filipino American (Fil-Am) voters. 

(Note: In this article, the term “leaners” are respondents who said they are more likely to support one candidate/party over the other, but have not yet decided to fully back that candidate/party.)

1. Most Fil-Ams identify themselves as Democrats

When asked about which party they identify themselves with, most Filipino Americans said they were Democrats. A big chunk also identified themselves as neither Democrats nor Republicans.

However, the study also showed that among Fil-Ams, identification with the Republican Party appears to be increasing slightly and steadily over time. In 2008, 18% of registered Filipino Americans identified as Republican; this proportion has increased to 25% in 2016. Registered Filipino Americans are also less likely to identify as non-partisan compared now (43% in 2008 and 31% in 2012). 


2. Most Fil-Ams have favorable impressions of Clinton, unfavorable impressions of Trump

When asked about favorability towards the two parties, most Fil-Ams said they have somewhat favorable to very favorable opinions of Hillary Clinton. Favorability with Trump, meanwhile, is the complete opposite, with 62% saying they hold unfavorable impressions of him.



3. In the primaries, Fil-Ams voted mostly for Clinton, but they also showed the highest support for Trump among Asian Americans

The results of the 2016 primaries and caucuses showed most Filipino Americans are solidly backing Clinton, with 45% reporting to have voted for her.

But Trump also trailed close behind at 30%, the highest level of support for Trump among Asian Americans.


4. Presidential choice: Fil-Ams solidly backing Clinton

There are slight changes when it comes to the actual 2016 elections as most Fil-Ams still said that they will be supporting Clinton.

Support for Trump is down to 25% but is still the highest percentage of Trump support among Asian American groups.




5. Stand on issues, from Obamacare to Syria

The NAAS also asked about registered Asian American voters’ thoughts on key issues and policies, including the Affordable Health Care Act (aka Obamacare), banning Muslims from entering the US, and accepting refugees from war-torn Syria, among others.

Here are the results:


According to the survey results, most Fil-Ams support the health care law; increased federal assistance for college students; stricter emission standards; and ensuring equal rights for African Americans. However, at 22%, Fil-Ams have the highest percentage of opposition among Asian American voters in giving equal rights to black Americans.

Meanwhile, most registered Fil-Am voters oppose banning  Muslims from entering the US and legalizing marijuana use. The poll results also showed that 41% of Fil-Ams oppose accepting Syrian refugees, the highest percentage of opposition among Asian Americans.

6. Fil-Ams are the most engaged in political discussions on social media

Fil-Ams live up to the Filipinos’ social media savvy reputation, as the survey results showed that among Asian American groups, they are most likely to engage in political discussions on social media sites such as Facebook.


7. Low election contact

Despite their growing policital participation, the NAAS also revealed that very few Asian Americans report being contacted by the parties about the election.

Overall, 70% of Asian Americans said the parties have never approached them. Among Filipino Americans, only 30% reported to have been talked to about the elections by the two parties.

According to the report, the low voter contact may be due to different reasons including: (1) the lower overall rates of voter registration among Asian Americans, (2) because effective outreach to Asian Americans involves multilingual support, and (3) Asian Americans’ concentration in states that are not swing states – states that could go to either Clinton or Trump – in the presidential elections.

The 2016 NAAS is a nationally representative survey of 2,238 Asian American and 305 Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander (NHPI) adult interviews conducted by telephone from August 10 to September 29, 2016. This particular report focuses on the 1,694 Asian American and 261 NHPI registered voters who took the survey, with an overall margin of error of +/- 3.5%.

The 2016 US presidential election is on November 8, 2016. –

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Don Kevin Hapal

Don Kevin Hapal is Rappler’s Head of Data and Innovation. He started at Rappler as a digital communications specialist, then went on to lead Rappler’s Balikbayan section for overseas Filipinos. He was introduced to data journalism while writing and researching about social media, disinformation, and propaganda.