What Will Sway Indian American Voters: Biden-Harris Ticket? Or, Trump-Modi Ties?

A new poll has revealed that Indian-American voters were unlikely to be swayed by either Democrat presidential nominee Joe Biden’s selection of Indian-origin Kamala Harris as his running mate or the relationship between US President Donald Trump and Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

The 2020 Indian American Attitudes Survey (IAAS) has also revealed that significant attention is also being paid to the community because of an emerging narrative that Trump-Modi friendship, “compounded by concerns over how a Biden administration might manage US-India ties, will push Indian-Americans to abandon the Democratic Party in droves”, the American Bazaar reported on Wednesday.

Presently, the Indian-American community makes up for less than 1 per cent of all registered voters in the US. The data further showed that Indian-Americans continue to be strongly attached to the Democratic Party, with little indication of a shift towards the Republican Party.

In addition, Indian-Americans view US-India relations as a low priority issue in this electoral cycle, and focusing more on national issues such as healthcare and economy. According to the poll, 72 per cent of registered Indian-American voters plan to vote for Biden and 22 per cent for Trump in the November 3 election.

The survey has also found that 64 per cent of respondents who identify as Independents (about one-eighth of all Indian-American voters) will back Biden, while 22 per cent intend to vote for Trump. Meanwhile, a smaller percentage of Indian-Americans who voted for Trump in 2016 (68 per cent) plan to support him again in 2020, the American Bazaar reported.

According to the poll, four demographics stand out in the Indian-Americans’ presidential vote choice — first, there was no linear relationship between age and vote choice.

Seventy-five per cent of voters between the ages of 18 and 29 intend to vote for Biden.

Second, Indians of all religious faiths prefer Biden to Trump.

Third, support for Biden is greater among US-born citizens (71 per cent) than naturalized citizens (66 per cent), and fourth, the community’s attitude does not exhibit a strong gender gap, in contrast to the US population as a whole.

During the 2016 election campaign around this time, then-candidate Donald Trump addressed a large, glamorous rally of thousands of cheering Hindus, the first time a US presidential candidate reached out to the followers of the faith. But this time there won’t be such an event.

The Republican Hindu Coalition (RHC), which organized the event on October 15, 2016, in New Jersey, is scaling back its campaign for Trump and will not hold events for him unless he gives an assurance on immigration reform, according to its founder Shalabh Kumar. Kumar told IANS that he and the group’s members would continue to support Trump and urge Hindus to vote for him, but will not hold any campaign events like the one in 2016 which was attended by over 8,000 people.

In the US, electioneering based on religious appeal is legal and common at all levels. “We are asking all our members to support Trump in their individual capacity to vote for Trump and for Republicans in general,” Kumar said.

The Trump campaign, meanwhile, has launched an outreach under its own umbrella called the ‘Hindu Voices for Trump’, as part of a multi-pronged drive that also separately targets Sikhs, Muslims and Indian-Americans in general.

For the first time, Democrats have also reached out to members of the religion with a “Hindus for Biden” initiative spearheaded by Raja Krishnamoorthi, a member of the House of Representatives. In the past, the Democrats’ explicit outreach had been to religions like Islam and Judaism and excluded Hinduism.

While Trump speaks of merit-based immigration there are about a million people caught up in the Green Card backlog and “they are in great pain”, he said. The RHC wants a commitment from Trump that he would introduce a system of an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) that would allow people waiting for five or more years for their Green Cards to indefinitely work and live in the US till their numbers come up for it, he said.

According to Republican Senator Mike Lee’s estimate, the backlog is so bad that for some Indians the wait could take 195 years for a Green Card, which gives permanent immigrant status and puts the recipients in the pipeline to full citizenship. The EAD would be a bridge to Green Card pending immigration reforms to clear the backlog, Kumar said.

A new poll has revealed that Indian-Americans overwhelmingly support the Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden for the November 3 election with “great enthusiasm”, generated by having Kamala Harris as the Vice Presidential candidate.

The poll released on Thursday reported that 72 per cent of registered Indian-American voters said that they planned to vote for the Biden-Harris ticket and only 22 per cent for President Donald Trump. The poll showed a slight erosion of five per cent in support to Biden among Indian-Americans compared to the 77 per cent Hillary Clinton had received from them in 2016, according to the 2016 Post-Election National Asian American Survey, while Trump seemed to have improved his support level by six per cent compared to the 16 per cent in the last election.

But despite the small numbers, the community’s support is avidly sought by both parties. “Even though Indian Americans comprise slightly more than one per cent of the total US population e and less than one per cent of all registered voters e both major parties are leaving no stone unturned in reaching out to this community (perhaps mindful of the closeness of the 2016 elections),” according to the Carnegies analysis of the IAAS poll.

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