New Delhi: An online survey of 936 Indian-Americans has found that in the upcoming 2020 United States elections, the community is expected to largely remain behind the Democratic party. This survey, conducted by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and YouGov between September 1 and 20, 2020, has no found no evidence of rumours that the Indian diaspora has been shifting closer to the Republican party, particularly thanks to the affinities between Narendra Modi and Donald Trump.
“Seventy-two percent of registered Indian American voters plan to vote for Biden and 22 percent intend to vote for Trump in the 2020 November election,” the report says.
Another finding in the report is that US-India relations do not figure highly in Indian-Americans’ priorities when deciding who to vote for. “Focusing on the issues that respondents ranked as number one, the economy (21 percent) is the most common response, followed closely on its heels by healthcare (20 percent). In the wake of an economic crisis and a pandemic, it is perhaps unsurprising that these two issues are at the top of voters’ minds. Racism/racial discrimination (12 percent), taxes (9 percent), and government corruption (8 percent) round out the top five issues,” the report says.
Democrat and Republican Indian-American voters, as the figure above shows, have differing priorities.
Political polarisation has been a major topic of debate in the US in the run up to 2016 and during the Trump presidency. Indian-Americans have not been immune to this trend, the study has found:
“The differences between the Democratic and Republican positions on most issues are stark. Seventy-four percent of Democrats oppose White House efforts to clamp down on the media, while 46 percent of Republicans feel the same way (28-point difference). On Trump’s “Muslim ban,” 67 percent of Democrats stand opposed compared to only 28 percent of their Republican counterparts (39-point difference). When it comes to using police force against BLM protesters occupying public spaces, 72 percent of Democrats oppose such action compared to 40 percent of Republicans (32-point difference). On enhanced ICE efforts to deport illegal immigrants, 64 percent of Democrats oppose those actions compared to 24 percent of Republicans (40-point difference).”
The one issue on which both groups converged to some degree, the study found, was university admissions. Sixty percent of Democrat voters and 50% of Republican voters surveyed supported affirmative action in admissions.
But Indian Americans are not a monolith! They are polarized and hold negative views of the opposing party, and divergent views on policy issues–from peaceful protests to immigration: pic.twitter.com/x110eD06Wx
— Sumitra Badrinathan (@KhariBiskut) October 14, 2020
The Kamala Harris effect
Despite being a relatively small population, Indian-Americans have been seen as an important political group, particularly with the Democratic party nominating Senator Kamala Harris, who is half Indian-American and half African-American for the vice-presidential position.
So has Harris’s nomination had any sort of large impact on Indian-Americans? On voter turnout, the survey found, 45% said her nomination made them more likely to go out to vote. Only 10% said it made them less likely to vote, and the others said her nomination had no impact on their decision to vote, in either direction.
On whether her nomination made them more enthusiastic about the Joe Biden campaign, “49 percent of respondents indicated that Harris’s nomination made them more enthusiastic about Biden’s candidacy while just 15 percent reported that it made them less enthusiastic. To be sure, diminished enthusiasm cannot simply be equated with support for Trump, although it raises this possibility. Another 31 percent said it made no difference to them either way.”
Why the preference for the Democrats?
In addition to asking the respondents about their political leanings, the surveyors also asked why they were likely to vote a certain way. The report states:
“Interestingly, the most common reason Indian Americans do not identify with the Republican Party is the belief that it is intolerant of minorities, a response given by 27 percent of non-Republican respondents. The second most common reason (19 percent) selected is that the Republican Party is too influenced by Christian evangelicalism. An equal share (16 percent) disagrees with the Republicans on their stances on gun control and legal immigration. Fifteen percent reported that they do not think of themselves as Republicans because the party does not support their preferred economic policies. Just 6 percent selected the fact that the Republican Party is not good for India as their top reason.”
When Republican voters, on the other hand, were asked why they don’t identify with the Democratic party, the reasons were largely economic.
“Twenty-one percent of respondents who do not identify as Democrats say this is because the party does not support their preferred economic policies (see figure 21). Three other reasons follow in close succession: the Democratic Party is too focused on identity politics (20 percent), too influenced by the extreme left wing (19 percent), and is weak on illegal immigration (17 percent). However, just as with non-Republican identifiers, only a small share (9 percent) agree with the idea that Democrats would be bad for India as their topmost reason.”