Re: Why Not Jindal?

by Avik Roy

Sean Trende makes the case that Jindal doesn’t represent a “swing demographic.” I don’t agree with that declaration. While it’s true that Asian Americans are a smaller slice of the electorate — 2 percent versus 9 percent for Hispanics in the 2008 exit polls — they are today the fastest growing ethnic group in the United States. In 2009, Asians overtook Hispanics as the ethnic group supplying the largest number of immigrants to the United States. In 2011, Asians represented 6 percent of the U.S. population.

While Asians lean Democratic today, they lean less that way than Hispanics; in the 2008 exit poll, President Obama won Latinos 67–31, and Asians 62–35.

And Asians pay taxes, making them a logical Republican constituency. In 2010, median household income for Asian Americans was $66,000, compared to $54,000 for whites and $40,000 for Hispanics. Forty-nine percent of Asian Americans older than 25 have a college degree, compared to 31 percent of whites and 13 percent of Hispanics. More from a recent Pew study:

They also stand out for their strong emphasis on family. More than half (54%) say that having a successful marriage is one of the most important things in life; just 34% of all American adults agree. Two-thirds of Asian-American adults (67%) say that being a good parent is one of the most important things in life; just 50% of all adults agree.

Their living arrangements align with these values. They are more likely than all American adults to be married (59% vs. 51%); their newborns are less likely than all U.S. newborns to have an unmarried mother (16% vs. 41%); and their children are more likely than all U.S. children to be raised in a household with two married parents (80% vs. 63%).

They are more likely than the general public to live in multi-generational family households. Some 28% live with at least two adult generations under the same roof, twice the share of whites and slightly more than the share of blacks and Hispanics who live in such households. U.S. Asians also have a strong sense of filial respect; about two-thirds say parents should have a lot or some influence in choosing one’s profession (66%) and spouse (61%).

Asian Americans have a pervasive belief in the rewards of hard work. Nearly seven-in-ten (69%) say people can get ahead if they are willing to work hard, a view shared by a somewhat smaller share of the American public as a whole (58%). And fully 93% of Asian Americans describe members of their country of origin group as “very hardworking”; just 57% say the same about Americans as a whole.

Asia, is of course, the world’s most diverse continent, and nominating an Indian-American VP won’t necessarily win over, say, immigrants from China or Iran. But the same goes for Marco Rubio, a Cuban American who doesn’t necessarily speak for Americans of Mexican ancestry.

My intuition — though I only have anecdotal evidence to back it up — is that part of the reason President Obama does well with Hispanics and Asians alike is because these minority groups see in the president someone who represents the aspirations of all minorities, not only blacks, in an inclusive and multicultural America. I think that people underestimate the value of Jindal (and Rubio, for that matter) in sending a similar message about Republicans.

Finding a vice president who is ready to govern from Day One is, and should be, the highest priority. But insofar as people think about demographic considerations, they shouldn’t forget about Bobby Jindal.

— Avik Roy is a member of Mitt Romney’s Health Care Policy Advisory Group.

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