For the past decade, Democrats and Republicans in the United States have viewed Indian Americans as an influential population. Although they make up only 1 percent of the electorate, Indian Americans make up the second largest immigrant group in the United States (after Mexican Americans). And their number is growing rapidly: According to the US census, the Indian-American population grew by almost 150 percent between 2000 and 2018. The community is also the highest-earning ethnic group in the country, with a median income of $ 100,000 in 2015 – nearly double the national average that year. Accordingly, Indian Americans have been tapped as a donor base for both parties and have allocated nearly $ 10 million for the Democratic ticket in the run-up to the 2016 presidential election.
In the 2020 presidential election, Trump and Biden's campaigns have made a concerted effort to air television commercials for the Indo-American voter. Competing Trump and Biden ads in Hindi and several regional dialects are shown in Telenovela-style Bollywood films and Indian shows on popular South Asian networks in the US such as TVAsia and Sony Entertainment TV.
By choosing Kamala Devi Harris as his fellow campaigner – the California senator had an Indian mother and a Jamaican father – the Biden campaign has garnered significant support from the Indian-American community. Harris voices her bi-racial identity and hugs her Indian roots, the effects of which are most evident in fundraising. In a single fundraiser in September, the Biden Victory Fund raised a record-breaking $ 3.3 million from the Indian-American community.
Of course, some have posited – either with concern or excitement – that Indian Americans are starting to shift to support President Donald Trump in significant numbers, citing his friendship with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the comparable political style and populist Attraction of the two leaders. and their tough positions against the Islamic State. Such predictions are premature – at least for now.
A recent YouGov poll found that 72 percent of registered Indian-American voters supported Vice President Biden. For comparison: 77 percent voted for Hillary Clinton in 2016 and for President Barack Obama in 2012 with 84 percent. The poll also found that the number of Trump-supporting Indian Americans had increased from 16 percent who supported him in 2016 to 22 percent. While a majority of Indian Americans continue to support the Democratic ticket, it appears that the Republican Party has some success in growing support among Indian-American voters.
As the 2016 elections showed, even small groups can have a big impact. Perhaps more important than the relative wealth and general high level of education of the Indian-American community is the fact that there are significant numbers of Indian-American voters in major swing states. Texas, Michigan, and Pennsylvania all have large South Asian communities, and with profit margins likely to be tight, even small shifts in support could upset the balance.
While the majority of Indian Americans are still democratic on domestic issues, there is also what is known as the Modi factor. Many in the community continue to support Modi and especially his stance on Kashmiri. Almost a month after the Indian government revoked Kashmir's special constitutional status and amid widespread protests against his administration's human rights abuses, Modi visited Houston and was cheered by a crowd of 50,000 supporters, including Trump. Modi is widely held responsible for making India more visible on the global stage. Trump and the Republican Party have made a clear link between their support for India and the Indian electorate, where the Democrats have sometimes struggled, especially when it comes to Modi's human rights record.
Accordingly, when it comes to the Indian-American community, both parties make big stakes. Leveraging the star power of Indian-American celebrities, the Biden campaign hosted a virtual South Asian block party with celebrities like Mindy Kaling, Lilly Singh and Kumail Nanjiani earlier this month to reach out and motivate younger South Asian voters.
Similarly, the Trump campaign recently launched Indian Voices for Trump, a coalition of Indian Americans in government and private sector led by Donald Trump Jr. whose mission is to "honor the vast global strategic partnership with India." and “to build on our partnership between the US and India. "
Although Indian Americans tend to lean to the left, we have seen over the past four years that their party affiliations are not binding. The modes factor is not a myth. While Indian Americans are viewed as largely liberal, the crowds that gathered in Houston in 2019 told a different story: Like any other demographic group in the United States, the Indian-American community is not a monolith.
Trump is trying to overshadow his own harsh rhetoric against immigrants and the building of the Wall by making a connection between his support for India and the Indo-US vote. The influence of the Indian-American stance on Indian politics has seen the rise of foreign-born Indian-American conservatives, organizing under Trump and focusing on Indian domestic issues. Trump has pushed some donors to the right, especially those who see the U.S. President as a reflection of Modi: a populist strongman who appears to be against Muslims. Recall that Trump's support among Indian Americans has increased 8 percentage points since 2016 – a remarkable increase for a president who otherwise had historically low approval ratings.
While Harris’s historic vice-presidential candidacy is fueling her party's Indian-American supporters, both parties continue to campaign for this demographic voting group in battlefield states. After becoming politically active, donating more to candidates, and running for office, the visibility of Indian Americans will be hard to ignore. Republicans and Democrats alike recognize that the political dividends that result from targeting this community for votes and campaign contributions are substantial. Indian Americans are now in the spotlight.