WASHINGTON -- Asian-Americans are now the fastest-growing racial group in the South and thus an increasingly important voting bloc in the region, according to a new analysis by a nonprofit civil rights group.
The report by Asian Americans Advancing Justice, released last week, shows a 70 percent increase in the number of Asian-Americans, Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders living in the South from 2000 to 2010. Their population grew to nearly 4 million.
Mee Moua, president and executive director of Asian Americans Advancing Justice, said the population growth translates into Asian-Americans having more political power in the region.
"The numbers are clear: Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders (NHPI) are by far the fastest growing racial group in the South, even outpacing the growth of Latinos," said Moua in a statement. "What this indicates is that these communities will be a driving force in the South's economy and provide the margin of victory in future elections."
The Southern region is defined as 16 states, from Delaware south to Florida and west to Texas, plus the District of Columbia.
With the growth of the Asian-American population has come a rise in Asian-American registered voters. Among the Southern states, Virginia saw the greatest increase -- a 136 percent jump from 2004 to 2012 -- followed by Georgia, Florida and Maryland.
Asian-Americans and Latinos are currently the two fastest-growing racial groups nationwide. The Latino increase has been primarily fueled by new births within the United States, according to the Pew Research Center. The rise in the Asian-American population, on the other hand, has been mostly driven by immigration. About two-thirds of Asian-Americans in the South are immigrants.
According to a survey sponsored by Asian Americans Advancing Justice and other groups, 68 percent of Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders voted for President Barack Obama in 2012. But that doesn't mean they're firmly in the Democratic camp. A pre-election poll that year found that 49 percent identified as Democrats, 17 percent identified as Republicans and 34 percent called themselves independents.