As the US Presidential elections draw closer, the number game is only become interesting. According to PEW Research Center, the number of Asian American voters increased from 4.6 million in 2000 to 11.1 million in 2020, an increase of 139%. What do the numbers say about Asian American voters in the US & their spread?
While campaigning and fundraising for the US Presidential elections may have been disrupted because of COVID-19, concerns are also being raised on how the elections will be conducted in these unprecedented times. Postponement of the elections in highly unlikely since the Presidential elections were never postponed in US history, even during the US Civil War, World War I, World War II, 9/11 Terrorist Attacks or the Spanish Flu. The 59th quadrennial presidential election of the United States is scheduled to take place on 03 November 2020.
Kamala Harris has been nominated to run for Vice President from the Democrats
The Democrats have formally nominated former Vice President Joe Biden to take on the current President of the US from the Republican party, Donald Trump. Joe Biden recently announced the name of Kamala Devi Harris, Senator from California, as his running mate. In other words, she will be vice-president if Joe Biden wins the upcoming elections. This move has been lauded by many across the spectrum, especially the Indian Americans, since this is the first time that a person (that too a female) of Indian descent, has been nominated for national office in the US. She will also be the first Black, African American & Asian American woman to be nominated for Vice President by a majority party. Her identity, especially after the ‘Black Lives Matter’ protests, her age, and experience in the government may have influenced this decision of Joe Biden. Whether she will be able to swing the votes of Asian Americans, mainly the Indian Americans in favour of the Democrats remains to be seen.
India has the largest diaspora in the world and US is the most popular destination
According to UN’s World Migration Report of 2020, India continues to have the largest diaspora in the world with over 17.5 million Indian origin persons living abroad. After UAE, the USA is the most preferred country for Indians to migrate to.
The US continues to be the top destination accommodating 50.7 million international migrants. As of 2019, Mexican born migrants were by far the largest foreign-born population in the US. Nevertheless, their numbers have dropped over the last few years. Immigrants in the recent years are mainly from Asia, particularly India, China, and the Philippines as well as from other countries in Latin America and the Caribbean. It is estimated that there are over 2.65 million Indians in the US as per the 2018 data of the American Community Survey (ACS) conducted by the country’s Census Bureau.
Nearly 5% of eligible voters in 2020 elections are Asian Americans
Asian Americans are the fastest-growing segment of eligible voters out of major racial and ethnic groups in US, according to the PEW Research Center, an American thinktank. The analysis was based on the US Census Bureau’s data. In the upcoming elections, more than 11 million Asian Americans are eligible to vote, and they make up close to 5% of those eligible to vote in the US.
It is the only racial/ethnic group in which number of naturalized citizens(immigrants) are more than those born in the US. Since the year 2000, in a span of 20 years, the number of Asian American eligible voters has more than doubled with a growth of 139% while the number of Hispanic voters grew by 121%. Black and White electorate grew at a slower rate of 33% and 7% respectively as per the PEW Research Center.
Source: PEW Research Center Analysis, 2018
It was observed that between 2000 and 2018, the number of Asian immigrant eligible voters increased from 3.3 million to 6.9 million. Naturalized citizens (immigrants) made up two-thirds of all eligible Asian American voters. About 4.5 million adult immigrant Asians are not eligible to vote as they are not American citizens. This includes green card holders, temporary visa holders, and unauthorized immigrants. Another 3.5 million Asians in the US are less than 18 years old.
Almost 6 in 10 Asians in US are eligible to vote
About 57% of the Asians in the US are eligible to vote out of the total 18.2 million Asian immigrants. Asian immigrants are a diverse group with persons from East and Southeast Asia and the Indian subcontinent. Majority of the voters from this group are Chinese, Indian, Filipino, Korean, Japanese, and Vietnamese. These together account for 85% of Asian Americans. In terms of numbers, there are 2.57 million Chinese Americans, 1.95 million Filipino Americans, and about 1.86 million Indian Americans who are eligible to vote in the November 2020 elections.
Source: PEW Research Center Analysis, 2018
Indian Americans were more likely to be identified as Democrats
Based on Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) community’s data, a survey was conducted in 2018. The survey revealed that party identification varied by origin group. For instance, Vietnamese Americans were more likely to identify as Republican as compared to other Asian Americans. Likewise, Indian Americans were the most likely to be Democrats than any other Asian group with half of Indian Americans identifying as Democrats and merely 18% as Republican. Whether these holds true even today is doubtful because of the outreach and events that the Republican President Trump attended along with Indian PM Narendra Modi.
Source: 2018 Asian American Voter Survey (AAVS) by APIA Vote and AAPI Data
More than 30% of the eligible Asian American voters lived in California (3.6 million) followed by New York (0.92 million), and Texas (0.69 million). In Hawaii, Asian Americans made up 38% of the eligible voters, more than any other group. California had the second highest share with 14% Asian Americans in the electorate accounting for 62% of the total Asian American population there.
Asian Americans make up for less than 3% of the electorate in 30 of the 52 States
Out of the 52 States/regions that make up the US electoral college, Asian Americans make up for only about 1% of the electorate in 14 of these states. They make up for around 2% of the electorate in 11 other states. In a total of 30 states/regions, the Asian Americans make up for less than 3% of the electorate. They account for more than 5% or more in only 10 of the 52 states/regions.
In 9 of the 12 traditional swing states, the Asian Americans make up for only about 2% of the electorate. In Minnesota, they account for 3% while in Virginia, they account for 5%. Nevada is the only swing state where the Asian Americans with 8% make up more than 5% of the electorate.
Indian Americans were more likely to hold Bachelors degree & had higher household income
71% of the Asian American voters reportedly spoke only English at home or spoke the language ‘very well’. Asian Americans also had the highest levels of education as compared to other racial/ethnic groups. About 50% of them possessed a bachelor’s degree. Around 65% of the Indian Americans had at least a bachelor’s degree, more than any other Asian group. The median annual household income of US Asian electorate was the highest with $105,000, and Indian American eligible voters had the highest median household income with $139,000. The median age of Asian American eligible voters was 46 years, also the highest among the ethnic/racial groups.
Which way will Indian Americans go this time?
Both the Republicans and Democrats are keen on securing the Indian American votes. In September 2019, Prime Minister Narendra Modi took part in the ‘Howdy Modi’ event along with POTUS Donald Trump, in Houston, Texas which was attended by over 50,000 people. In the event, he referred to the slogan ‘Abki Baar Trump Sarkar’ which was used for campaign during the 2016 US elections following Modi’s 2014 catch phrase for 2014 elections, ‘Abki Baar Modi Sarkar’. Modi’s reference is considered as an endorsement for the 2020 elections among the Indian Americans.
Biden’s supporters have reportedly launched an outreach to the Indian American community in 14 languages including Hindi, Punjab, Tamil, Telugu, Bengali, Urdu, Kannada, Malayalam, Odia, Marathi, and Nepali to be able to communicate directly with them. ‘America Ka Neta Kaisa Ho, Jo Biden Jaisa Ho’ slogan has been coined by Biden’s supporters for appeasing the Indian American voters. Only time will tell which of these campaigns are successful in securing the Indian American votes.
There are other Indian origin politicians in US
Not just Kamala Harris, but there are many other Indian origin American politicians in the US. Democrat Pramila Jaypal, born in India, was the first South Asian American woman to be elected to the US House of Representatives. Nikki Haley, the Former Governor of South Carolina and Bobby Jindal, Governor of Louisiana are both Republicans and have their roots in India.
Featured Image: Asian American voters in USA