The 2020 United States (US) election has seen the four-million-strong Indian-American community come of age politically and put them on the US’s political map. What will a great night for the community on November 3 look like?
For Democrats all over the country, a Joe Biden-Kamala Harris victory, which would catapult one of their own to the second-most powerful position in the land, will make it truly historic. Victory for Senate-hopeful Sara Gideon in Maine, and two congressional candidates, Sri Kulkarni in Texas 22nd district and Hiral Tipirneni in Arizona’s 6th district, would be icing on the cake. That would expand the size of the so-called Samosa Caucus, the Indian-American congressional delegation, from five to seven.
Indian-Americans have been aggressively courted by both campaigns for votes and campaign money. One reason for that is the sizeable presence of the community in many swing states and its affluence. Donald Trump’s combined margin in 2016 in the swing states of Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin was fewer than 78,000 votes.
This year, in Pennsylvania — which he won with less than 45,000 votes — there are 61,000 Indian-American voters. Michigan, where Trump’s margin was 10,794, has 45,000 Indian-American voters. In Texas, the largest red state in the country, which also appears to be in play, there are more than 200,000 eligible Indian-American voters. Similarly, Florida has 87,000 Indian-American voters.
It’s not just their numbers; the community is also heavily engaged in politics, topping other Asian-American groups, both in voter registration and campaign donations. According to AAPI Data, which publishes demographic data and policy research on Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders, nearly 90% of eligible Indian-Americans are registered to vote, higher than the US population in general. While the community lags behind White and Black Americans in donations, it leads in campaign donations among Asian-American communities.
That is the reason that Trump invested in the community, which has traditionally been part of the Democratic coalition. He appeared in two public rallies with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in Houston and Ahmedabad.
Democrats, for their part, did not take Indian-Americans for granted and reached out to them in a range of ways, including ad campaigns and a personalised op-ed by Biden.
Where does the community stand? In recent years, there has been a lot of speculation about whether the community has gravitated toward GOP because of Trump’s ties with Modi. Some have touted unscientific polls conducted by partisan GOP activists to claim that a significant section of the community has shifted its loyalty to the Republican Party. But two reputable surveys, released in recent weeks, contradict these proclamations.
The first survey conducted by AAPI Data, disclosed that nearly half of the Indian-American population (48%) identify themselves as Democrats, while 22% of the community identify as Republicans. It also found that two-thirds of Indian-Americans planned to vote for Biden, and 28% intended to vote for Trump. An Indian American Attitudes Survey conducted by Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Johns Hopkins University and University of Pennsylvania, in partnership with the polling firm YouGov affirmed the results of the AAPI Data study. This survey, released on October 14, found that 72% of registered voters from the community plan to vote for Biden, while 22% intend to vote for Trump.
The YouGov survey found that Trump’s friendship with Modi and the India-US relationship, are not decisive enough issues for Indian-American voters. Another fascinating fact that this survey revealed was that second-generation Indian-Americans, like the broader American population, hold more liberal views and care deeply about the environment and racial justice.
Irrespective of who wins, Indian-Americans will be winners. November 3 will mark their arrival as major players, contributors and indeed, as citizens, in the political arena of the world’s second-largest democracy.