While two-thirds of Indian American voters said they planned to vote for the Joe Biden-Kamala Harris presidential ticket, President Donald Trump got a surprising, almost double digit, jump, according to the results of the AAPI Data survey released Sept. 15.
In 2016, 77 percent of Indian Americans voted for Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, while just 16 percent voted for Trump. Seven percent voted for an “other” unnamed candidate.
In 2020, however, 65 percent of Indian Americans surveyed said they intend to vote for Biden, while 28 percent intend to vote for the re-election of Trump. Six percent said they were undecided.
If undecided voters follow patterns of previous years, Trump will get 30 percent of votes cast by Indian Americans, said Karthick Ramakrishnan, founder and director of AAPI Data, which released the results of its survey in a joint briefing with Indiaspora Sept. 15 evening.
AAPI data surveyed 1,596 registered Asian American voters — including 260 Indian Americans — throughout the nation for its 2020 survey. Polling began July 15 and ended Sept. 9; respondents were contacted online and by telephone.
Indian Americans are the fastest growing ethnic group within the AAPI umbrella: the community has more than doubled in the past two decades. More than 1.8 million Indian Americans are eligible to vote in the Nov. 3 general election.
During a panel discussion following the release of survey results, Seema Nanda, former CEO of the Democratic National Committee, said Indian American participation in elections has skyrocketed over the past six years. In 2014, 26 percent of Indian Americans voted in the general election; in the 2018 midterm election, 47 percent of Indian Americans cast their ballots. “That’s a staggering statistic,” she said, attributing the huge jump to the results of the 2016 election that brought Trump to the White House.
The community is much more engaged, she said, noting the number of grassroots organizations, many led by women. “They didn’t do this before Trump,” said Nanda.
“Indian Americans could be the margin of victory,” said Nanda, noting that many live in key battleground states.
Fifty-four percent of Indian Americans are registered Democrats, 16 percent are Republican, while 28 percent identify as Independent; 2 percent said they did not know.
Among the AAPI ethnicities surveyed in the poll, Biden had the highest approval rating from Indian Americans: 27 percent viewed the candidate very favorably, while 45 percent viewed him somewhat favorably. Notably, 11 percent of Indian Americans said they did not know enough or had never heard about Biden.
Overall, 19 percent of Asian Americans viewed Biden favorably, while 34 percent viewed him somewhat favorably.
Trump faced a drubbing from Indian Americans surveyed for the poll: 53 percent viewed him very unfavorably, while 7 percent viewed him somewhat unfavorably. Nineteen percent viewed the president very favorably, while 17 percent viewed him somewhat favorably.
Overall, 47 percent of Asian Americans viewed Trump very unfavorably.
Trump has invested his time with India and Indian Americans in a positive way, MR Rangaswami, founder of Indiaspora, told India-West, noting that the president had made a quick three-day visit to India in late February, during which he traveled to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s home state, Gujarat.
Trump was also feted at the “Howdy Modi” event in Houston, Texas, last September, during which the prime minister gave the president his tacit endorsement, proclaiming: “Abki Baar Trump Sarkar” (This time, it’s Trump’s time).
Rangaswami — an Independent who has donated to the Biden-Harris campaign, as well as to the coffers of several Indian American Democrats running in national races, according to his Federal Election Commission report — said Modi’s endorsement of Trump may sway older Indians, but pointed to AAPI Data survey results, which showed that Indian Americans are not single issue voters, but rather, vote in a broader context, considering several issues when choosing a candidate.
Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi, D-Illinois, said during the panel discussion that the U.S.-India relationship has largely been non-partisan, but has taken on a new importance as both countries wage battle with China. “U.S. national security is bound up with the security of India,” he said.
India and China began a fresh border dispute in May, battling over the Galwan Valley region of Ladakh.
Ohio state Representative Niraj Antani, who is Republican, said Trump has endeared himself to Indian Americans by remaining neutral on India’s revocation of Article 370 — a controversial move last August that summarily stripped the Jammu and Kashmir region of the special autonomous status it had held since Independence. He has also remained neutral on India’s equally controversial Citizenship Amendment Act, which would allow most undocumented Indians to gain a pathway to citizenship, except for Muslims.
The president has also supported small business owners with the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, said Antani.
In national House races, 63 percent of Indian Americans said they would vote for Democrats, while 24 percent said they planned to vote for Republicans; 10 percent remained undecided.
In national Senate races, 54 percent of Indian Americans planned to vote for Democratic candidates, while 33 percent will vote for Republicans, and 11 percent were undecided.
Key issues for Indian Americans included access to health care for all, regardless of immigration status. Similarly, 64 percent of Indian Americans supported a pathway to citizenship for undocumented residents.
Two-thirds of Indian Americans support stronger federal climate change policies, and almost 75 percent strongly support stricter gun laws.
Full survey results can be viewed at AAPIdata.com.