Kamala Harris effect galvanizes Indian American voters

But unlikely to change voters’ choice much given community’s historic Democratic orientation.

Kamala Harris’ vice presidential candidacy has galvanized the Indian American community to turn out to vote, but it might not change their choice much given the community’s historic Democratic orientation, according to a new survey.

The 2020 Indian American Attitudes Survey (IAAS) looked at whether Harris’s addition to the Democratic presidential ticket would be a net positive, net negative, or simply have no impact on the voting behavior of Indian Americans.

The survey was conducted among 936 Indian American citizens between Sept. 1 and Sept. 20, by Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Johns Hopkins University and Princeton in partnership with YouGov, a research and analysis firm.

It considered whether the Harris factor was more or less likely to make them vote (the turnout effect) and whether it made them more or less enthusiastic about Biden’s candidacy (the enthusiasm effect).

With regards to turnout, 45 percent of respondents indicated that Harris’s selection made them more likely to vote in November while just 10 percent indicated that it made them less likely to vote, the survey found.

Another 40 percent said it made no difference either way. In all, the Harris pick does seem to have galvanized a large section of the Indian American community with respect to turning out to vote.

However, voters could be mobilized to vote either for Biden-Harris or against them, the survey noted.

The survey data indicate that the mobilization effect is largely working in favor of the Democratic ticket: 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, it said. Another 31 percent said it made no difference to them either way.

The Harris factor became relevant given the spate of stories on Harris’s Indian mother and the impact of her Indian heritage, which was often juxtaposed to Harris’s self-identification as a Black woman.

Some news reports, the survey noted suggested that the Indian American community enthusiastically embraced Harris’ selection.

Some others hinted at rifts within the community due to her previous positions on Indian domestic policy as well as her downplaying of her Indian identity relative to her Black identity.

The survey also looked at some of the plausible reasons why exactly the Indian American community tilts so heavily toward the Democratic Party.

READ MORE: Road to the White House

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, it said.

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.

Those who disagreed with the Republican Party, the biggest issue of divergence by a two-to-one margin, was healthcare (38 percent), the survey found.

The next two most common responses were tax policy (19 percent) and climate change (18 percent).

Conversely, when respondents were asked why they do not identify with the Democratic Party, economic policy figures at the top of the list.

Twenty-one percent of respondents who do not identify as Democrats say this is because the party does not support their preferred economic policies.

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.

Similarly those who disagreed with the Democratic Party, modal response—mirroring that of non-Republican identifiers—was healthcare (31 percent).

In this case, tax policy finished a relatively close second (26 percent), followed by business regulation (16 percent).


Kamala Harris slams Republicans for ‘jamming through’ Barrett nomination (October 13, 2020)

Trump attacks Kamala Harris as a ‘monster’ and ‘communist’ (October 9, 2020)

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