US-India ties not a big factor for Indian American voters

Washington: US-India ties do not figure prominently among the issues that animate Indian Americans, who are said to have emerged as a key factor in the 2020 presidential election even though they make up less than one percent of all registered voters.

Wooed by both Republicans and Democrats, the economy and healthcare, not India, are the two most important issues influencing their vote choice, according to a new survey.

While “Kitchen table” issues dominate over foreign policy concerns, the issue of US-India relations is among the least important influencers of Indian Americans’ vote choice, according to the 2020 Indian American Attitudes Survey (IAAS).

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

Just 3% named US-India relations as their number one issue. Again just 7% reported that a candidate’s position on India will be one of the most important issues shaping their vote choice.

Indian Americans’ view of incumbent President Donald Trump’s handling of relations with India is also decidedly mixed, as per survey. Only 22% of respondents strongly approve of his handling of bilateral relations and 25%  strongly disapprove.

Contrary to media reports that many Indian Americans are increasingly troubled with the Democratic Party’s foreign policy positions on India, as many as 39% of respondents reported that the Democratic Party does a better job on US-India relations while 18% believe the Republican Party is better.

The disquiet with the Democratic lawmakers, the survey noted, was linked to opposition voiced by key Democratic lawmakers including Kamala Harris, with regards to changes in India’s polity under Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Looking at to what extent the Modi factor is an election issue because the Trump campaign has advanced the idea that Modi has endorsed his reelection, the survey shows a modest amount of polarization centered on his identity. Asked to place Modi on a feeling thermometer scale of 0–100, Indian Americans placed him at 55, somewhere between their ratings of Biden and Trump. However, the ratings do differ somewhat by partisan preference. Trump voters give Modi the highest rating (76), followed by Republicans (70). Democrats, on the other hand, give Modi a rating of 55, while Biden voters give Modi the lowest rating (52).

On whether they approve of the job that Modi is doing as prime minister for India, 48% of Indian Americans approve, and 32% disapprove (20% express no opinion).

Image courtesy of (Photo: PIB)

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