Biden has huge lead among Indian Americans, but Trump makes significant gains

An overwhelming majority of Indian Americans will be voting for the Democratic Party presidential candidate Joe Biden, whose running mate is Indian American Kamala Harris, according to a voter survey, but President Donald Trump has made a double-digit increase in support among them

Arul Louis Sep 17, 2020

An overwhelming majority of Indian Americans will be voting for the Democratic Party presidential candidate Joe Biden, whose running mate is Indian American Kamala Harris, according to a voter survey, but President Donald Trump has made a double-digit increase in support among them.

Biden was assured of  66 per cent of the Indian American votes and Trump of only 28 per cent if the election were held on the day they were polled, the 2020 Asian American Voter Survey (AAVS) has found.

But Trump's backers have increased by 12 per cent since 2016.

Hillary Clinton, who ran against him on the Democratic ticket, received 77 per cent of the Indian American votes to only 16 per cent that Trump got, according to the 2016 Post-Election National Asian American Survey.

There appears to be an 11 per cent erosion in support for the Democratic Party in the last four years.

However, Biden's margin of 38 per cent over Trump among Indian Americans is still more than six times the margin in the national polls covering all ethnicities.

The RealClearPolitics aggregation of national polls on Wednesday showed Biden having only a 5.9 per cent lead, with 49 per cent support compared to 43.1 per cent for Trump.

Speaking at panel discussion during the release of the report on Tuesday organised jointly with Indiaspora, Niraj Antani, a Republican Ohio State Assembly  member, ascribed the increase in Trump's support among Indian American to his outreach to them, his India visit and his neutrality on issues like the Citizenship Amendment Act and the ending of Kashmir's special constitutional status. “Biden's opposition to those issues have sort of polarised the community,” he said.

Raja Krishnamoorthi, a Democratic member of the House of Representatives from Illinois, said that Biden has to conduct “a vigorous outreach” to the Indian American community.

But he said that Indian Americans should “absolutely not” worry about India losing support under Biden and Harris because he “has been a stalwart friend of India through different prime ministers.”

US-India relations transcends partisanship in the US, he said, adding, “As a member of the House Intelligence Committee, I can tell you for a fact that our national security is bound up with the security of India” because of the China factor and US-India relations are going to grow closer.

The influence of Harris is not fully factored into the AAVS because her pick as the vice-presidential nominee was announced only on August 11, midway through the poll between July 15 and September 10.

Krishnamoorthi said Harris's nomination is going to be “a big play” in the Indian community.

She should “talk a little more about her biography, talk about her Indian heritage and her roots and talk about how that informed and influenced who she is today,” he said.

Ninety-eight per cent of Indian Americans planned to vote in the November election, according to the AAVS produced by APIAVote, AAPI Data, and Asian Americans Advancing Justice.

And 58 per cent said they were more enthusiastic about voting this year.

While the percentage of Indian Americans who back the Democratic Party candidate has come down, the party has solidified its base in the community. The percentage of those who consider themselves Democrats has increased to 54, up by eight per cent from 46 per cent in the 2016 survey.

Those who consider themselves Republican has meanwhile dropped to 16 per cent from 19 per cent in 2016. Those who consider themselves independent has also fallen from 35 per cent to 24 per cent in the four years.

The survey showed that 44 per cent Indian Americans had a “somewhat favourable” view of Biden and 26 per cent “very favourable” view of him, with only 14 per cent having a “very unfavourable” view and six per cent “somewhat unfavourable.”

In contrast, 54 per cent of Indian Americans had a “very unfavourable” view of Trump and eight per cent “somewhat unfavourable.” Only 20 per cent had “very favourable” views of him and 16 per cent “somewhat unfavourable.”

Karthick Ramakrishnan, the director of AAPI Data, said that the high unfavourable rate for Trump “really limits his ability to make much more headway in the Indian American population.”

The survey showed that Indian Americans were overwhelmingly liberal in their outlook, both political and social.

Indian Americans are concerned about growing inequality with 40 per cent saying that it was an extremely important issue, 38 per cent a very important issue and 20 per cent somewhat an important issue.

Sixty-eight per cent of Indian Americans said there was a lot of discrimination against Muslims in US society, 21 per cent some discrimination and only nine per cent none.

Sixty per cent of Indian Americans agreed strongly and 22 per cent “somewhat strongly” that the government should do more to give Blacks equal rights with Whites, and 38 per cent had very favourable views of the Black Lives Matter movement, a nationwide protest against police brutality and systemic racism against African Americans, and 32 per cent “somewhat favourable” views

Thirty-eight per cent of Indian Americans considered policing reforms extremely important, 46 per cent very important and 10 per cent somewhat important.

On government size, 56 per cent of Indian Americans backed having a bigger government, while 22 per cent favoured smaller one.

Eighty-six per cent of Indian Americans were supportive of affirmative action programmes that give preference in jobs and admissions to educational institutions.

There is concern over foreign interference in US elections and 43 per cent of Indian Americans worry about frequently, 23 per cent somewhat frequently and 18 per cent never.

The only area where there wasn't a huge difference in perceptions of Democrats and Republicans was in dealing with the economy and jobs: 39 per cent of Indian Americans said Democrats did a better job and 31 per cent Republicans, while 27 per cent saw no difference between the two parties.

The Asian American Survey 2020 was carried out by Asian and Pacific Islander American Vote, Asian American Pacific Islander Data and Asian Americans Advancing Justice surveyed members of all Asian ethnic groups around the country.

The survey to gauge Asian views on a number of subjects included 250 Indian Americans and breakdown of their views by community was given.

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