We posit that rhetoric from Republicans insinuating that nonwhite “takers” are taking away from white “makers,” as well as their strong anti-immigrant positions, has cultivated a perception that the Republican Party is less welcoming of minorities. Since the Democratic Party is seen as less exclusionary, we find that triggering feelings of social exclusion makes Asian Americans favor Democrats.
We conducted an experiment in which Asian Americans were brought into a university laboratory. Half were randomly subjected to a seemingly benign racial microaggression like Trump’s clueless remarks to Choe before being asked to fill out a political survey. The white assistant was instructed to tell half of the study participants “I’m sorry. I forgot that this study is only for U.S. citizens. Are you a U.S. citizen? I cannot tell.”

Asian Americans who were exposed to this race-based presumption of “not belonging” were more likely to identify strongly as a Democrat. They were also more likely to view Republicans generally as close-minded and ignorant, less likely to represent people like them, and to have more negative feelings toward them.

Our finding is remarkable given that the racial microaggression was mentioned only once, and was of the most benign nature. Our experiment confirms that Asian Americans associate feelings of social exclusion based on their ethnic background with the Republican Party.