Did the Indian-American vote matter in 2020?

By Soumya Bhowmick

The US presidential race in November 2020 was a tightly contested one. Out of the 538 electoral college votes, the nine battleground states namely Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Michigan, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas and Wisconsin had a combined total of 173 votes, representing around 32% of the entire US population. As expected, most of these swing states decided whether Donald Trump or Joe Biden becomes the 46th President .

The Indian-American community, the second largest immigrant group in the US after the Chinese, is often considered to be a key constituency, especially in the swing states due to their relative affluence and high levels of educational qualifications.

As depicted in the table alongside, all the battleground states had voted for the GOP candidate in the previous presidential elections. In 2020, five of these 9 states shifted towards the Democrat. A similar reverse trend was observed in the 2016 elections where six swing states (Florida, Iowa, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin) had shifted their allegiance from Democratic to Republican.

Although the exact voting trend for the Indian-American community is still speculative there is no doubt that this immigrant group was of paramount importance in the battleground states where small shifts in allegiance can tip the balance in favor of one party or another.


Presidential Election Results in the Swing States

The number of Indian-Americans exceeds the winning margin of the 2020 presidential elections in five out of nine battleground states, with four of those 5 states voting for Joe Biden.

Candidates from both the parties had campaigned more heavily to reach out to the Indian-American voters. Trump leveraged on his friendly interactions with Prime Minister Narendra Modi  and Biden reminiscing about hosting the White House Diwali celebrations in 2012.

The table shows that the number of Indian-Americans exceeds the winning margin of the 2020 presidential elections in five out of nine states, with four out of those five states voting for the Democratic candidate, Joe Biden. Although, the exact numbers of the Indian-American electorate in these states are unavailable, these figures are indicative that the community continued to harbor its support for the Democratic party in the 2020 elections as well. Indeed, Indian-American population has become a political force to reckon with in all 50 states, due to their growing numbers and outsized impact.

According to one survey, the community was believed to be swerving towards the Republican party — with support by the Indian-Americans for  Hilary Clinton in the 2016 elections standing at 77 percent compared to the support for Joe Biden at 66 percent in 2020. Prior to the elections, there was a perceived “shift” among older generation Indian-Americans, in response to Trump’s significant overtures towards a Modi-led India. Meanwhile, Biden’s choice of Kamala Harris as his running mate became important in wooing the community as discussions regarding her Indian origin became salient in the run up to the elections.

Along with several people of Indian origin running for various offices in state legislatures, justices of courts and mayoral offices representing both sides of the aisle — all four incumbents Indian-Americans won their re-election to the House of Representatives. The Indian-American demographic is only about 1% of the US population — but with a population that grew by nearly 150% between 2008 and 2018, the Indian community with its high potential for political mobilization and donations should have an increasing say in American politics in future elections as well.

Source: Observer Research Foundation

Image courtesy of (Source: ORF)

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