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Defying the Odds

Defying the Odds
New book about the 2016 election.

Sunday, September 13, 2020

South Asian Voters

In Defying the Odds, we discuss the 2016 campaign. The 2019 update includes a chapter on the 2018 midterms. The 2020 race, the subject of our next book, is well underway

Sonia Paul at The Guardian
Growing numbers among multiple south Asian communities underscore their strength within the Asian American demographic, the fastest-growing racial or ethnic group in the US electorate.

The south Asian American population – those who trace their ancestry to the southern region of Asia – grew by 43% from 2011 to 5.7 million people in 2018, according to the American Community Survey, while the total US population grew by only 4.7% during that same time period. And about 2 million Indian Americans, the second largest immigrant group in the country, are eligible to vote in the US, according to Devesh Kapur, professor of south Asian studies at Johns Hopkins University and co-author of The Other One Percent: Indians in America.

Meanwhile, Democratic activists and donors hope Joe Biden’s running mate Kamala Harris, the daughter of immigrants from India and Jamaica, can help sway undecided Indian Americans – as Donald Trump’s campaign also tries to double-down on outreach to the community it began four years ago with a new ad targeting Indian American voters.

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But given the south Asian community’s booming numbers, distinguishing how different south Asians – not just Indian Americans – vote bears significance. The 2016 Post-Election National Asian American survey shows that Bangladeshi and Pakistani Americans were much more inclined to Hillary Clinton than Indian Americans: 90% of Bangladeshi Americans and 88% of Pakistani Americans voted for Clinton compared with 77% of Indian Americans.


It’s also important to look at where voters live – for example, according to data from 2018, of the estimated 2 million Indian American voters in the US, about 500,000 live in battleground states. With razor-thin margins in these regions, voter mobilization within the south Asian community could have the greatest impact in Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Texas and Wisconsin, said Karthick Ramakrishnan, a political scientist at University of California Riverside and founder of AAPI Data.