e race for the White House heats up with just one and a half months to the Nov. 3, 2020 elections, Republicans and Democrats are outdoing each other to woo the Indian-American community. From polls declaring that more Indian-Americans support the GOP, to forming numerous groups representing this mostly affluent though small vote-bank, both parties are trying to expand their outreach. All in the hope that this vote bank could be decisive in swing states.
The Indians for Biden National Council (IBNC) is ramping up its outreach to the community, aiming for votes in the key swing states where small vote margins count, by adding several legislators and other leaders to its advisory board, the organisation’s National Director Sanjeev Joshipura announced on Friday.
“Indian American leaders from different political and advocacy areas have joined the Indians for Biden National Council to help expand the Council’s reach in various Indian American communities in battleground states across America,” the IBNC said.
The battleground states are important because neither the state has a lock on them and they can also swing either way with a small number of votes deciding the final result of the presidential election, which is finally determined by electors and not the popular votes.
Support for Democratic candidate Biden among Indian Americans appears to have fallen by 11 per cent compared to the voting for Hillary Clinton in the 2016 elections. While she received 77 per cent of votes from Indian Americans, the 2020 Asian American Voter Survey (AAVS) released this week found Biden getting only the support of 66 per cent. President Donald Trump’s support, meanwhile, has increased by 12 per cent in the court years to 28 per cent.
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.
The advisory board includes Nisha Biswal, who was the Assistant Secretary of State for South Asia in the administration of President Barack Obama, and is now the President of the US-India Business Council and Senior Vice-President for South Asia at the US Chamber of Commerce. House of Representatives member Raja Krishnamoorthi is also a member of the board.
Displaying the broad sweep of emerging Indian American politicians, the board includes seven state legislators from across the country and activists. “The participation of respected political and policy figures on our advisory board emphasizes the importance of Indian Americans as a voting block, especially in the swing states. We are delighted and inspired by our advisory board’s enthusiasm to help the Biden-Harris ticket win in November,” Joshipura said.
Biswal said, “Joe Biden and Kamala Harris are absolutely the right people to lead this country during these trying times. Moreover, from Biden’s long record in public service, and based on the campaign’s publicly released agenda for the Indian American community, I know that a Biden-Harris administration will do a great job in further strengthening US-India ties.” The IBNC operates under the umbrella of South Asians of Biden, which also has separate councils for Pakistani Americans and other ethnicities.
Biden gave the push for Indian American votes with a digital address to the community on August 15, recalling his leadership for getting the India-US nuclear deal through the Congress and assuring them by saying “as President, I’ll also continue to rely on Indian American diaspora. It keeps our two nations together.”
The US Presidential polls are indirect elections with members of the Electoral College distributed along state lines making the final selection. Although Hillary Clinton won 2.8 million votes, she lost the 2016 elections because Trump received 77 more votes than her in the Electoral College. This has made Indian American voters in the swing states important for the outcome of the elections as they could contribute to the slim margins that determine the outcome.
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 on September 15th.
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 the media, 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.