Adapting Identities: Religious Conversion and Partisanship Among Asian American Immigrants

Asian Americans constitute the largest group of new immigrants and the fastest growing ethnic group in the United States. While Asian American immigrants have experienced greater economic success than other minority groups, this has not necessarily led to greater political incorporation such as identification with a political party. Political parties have made little substantive outreach to Asian Americans, leaving a void in political socialization that other institutions, such as churches, have sought to fill. Yet the U.S. religious landscape is often quite different from that of Asian immigrants’ sending countries, providing opportunities for changes in religious identity through conversion. Leveraging data from the 2012 Pew Asian American Survey, we show that conversion from Buddhism to Christianity among Asian American immigrants facilitates the development of partisan political identities. We demonstrate that conversion functions as an adaptation in identity that helps facilitate subsequent changes in identity, such as the acquisition of partisanship.


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