Small but influential community has emerged as a pivotal voting block in battleground states.
As America decides Tuesday whether to give brash billionaire Donald Trump four more years or replace him with Democrat challenger “Sleepy Joe” Biden, as the incumbent calls him, Indian Americans seem to hold the key to the White House.
They make up just about 0.82% of 240 million voters, but thanks to their demographic profile, 1.8 million Indian Americans can make the difference in several battleground states from Florida to Texas.
For instance, in swing states like New Hampshire, Pennsylvania and Michigan, their numbers are actually larger than Trump’s margin of victory over Hillary Clinton in the, 2016 presidential election.
“So while in aggregate they are not huge, they can be pivotal in certain swing states,” Milan Vaishnav, who directs the South Asia Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, pointed out in a recent interview with NPR.
“Indian Americans are positioned to make a difference in several swing states that may be close in this election,” according to Dr. Karthick Ramakrishnan, professor of public policy and political science at UC Riverside, and founder of AAPI Data.
Enthused as they are by the historic nomination of Kamala Harris as Biden’s running mate, voters of Indian descent are likely to turn out in greater numbers, but that’s not going to sway how they vote, according to two surveys.
READ: Indian Americans set to make a big splash in Nov. 3 polls (October 31, 2020)
Wooed by both Republicans and Democrats, they are also unlikely to switch their traditional preference for Democrats to Trump because of his ‘friendship’ with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, for whom both Biden and Trump voters have a “warm” feeling.
A survey of Indian American citizens in September by Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Johns Hopkins University and Princeton, however indicated a slight shift towards Trump.
While 77% voted for Clinton in 2016, only 72% plan to do so for Biden. Trump’s share, on the other hand, is likely to go up from 16% to 22%. An Indiaspora and AAPI Data joint survey estimates Trump’s share to go as high as 28%.
But US-India ties do not figure prominently among the issues that animate Indian Americans for whom like other voters “Kitchen table” issues like economy and healthcare remain their top concerns, according to the Carnegie survey.
Indiaspora and AAPI Data joint survey also listed education, jobs and economy, health care, and the environment as their top issues.
READ: ‘This is our time,’ say Indian Americans in politics (October 15, 2020)
Indian Americans are also taking a more active part in the presidential elections. The AAPI Data survey noted that by the end of June 2020, they had donated at least $3 million to 2020 presidential campaigns.
Indian American supporters of Trump and Biden have also run ad campaigns in support of the two presidential candidates.
Florida,-based serial entrepreneur Digvijay “Danny” Gaekwad ran an ad blitz taking a cue from Modi’s campaign slogan, “Modi Hai to Mumkin Hai” (With Modi, it’s possible), “Trump Hai to Safe Hai” (With Trump, it’s safe).
Ajay Bhutoria, a California entrepreneur, produced a campaign video for Biden — “Chale Chalo, Biden, Harris ko vote do”, (Let’s go vote for Biden, Harris) — based on a song from the Hindi hit film, “Laagan”.
READ: Where do Indian Americans live? (October 26, 2020)
Besides Harris, a record seven Indian Americans are contesting for the US Congress —Sara Gideon for US Senate from Maine, and Ami Bera and Ro Khanna (California), Raja Krishnamoorthi (Illinois), Pramila Jayapal (Washington), Sri Kulkarni and Hiral Tipirneni (Arizona) for the House.
In addition, there are over five dozen other Indian origin candidates running for office in at least 15 states from Arizona to Washington.
“There’s a level of enthusiasm and excitement about this year’s election among Indian American voters that is palpable, and unrivaled in previous cycles,” says Neil Makhija, Executive Director of IMPACT.
The leading Indian American advocacy and political action committee, has raised a $10 million war chest to get Harris and other Indian origin candidates elected.
This election is expected to have the highest voter turnout since 1908, north of 65% of eligible voters turning out, NPR reported citing Michael McDonald, a turnout expert at the University of Florida who runs the US Elections Project.
READ: Record number of Indian Americans on ballot across the country (October 9, 2020)
Prompted by coronavirus pandemic more than 93.1 million people have already voted — either by mail or in-person early.
That’s almost twice as many pre-election votes as were cast in the 2016 election and about 68% of the total votes then.
With so many people having cast their votes by postal ballot, it may be days before the winner is known!
Indian American community rockets its way to relevance (September 4, 2020)