indian_americans_for_obama_button-p145689182520281185en872_216.jpg

Why Do Indian Americans Vote Democrat?

In my conversations with Denise McAllister, she asked me the question…  Why do Indian Americans vote Democrat?

It is a complex question indeed, and I decided to answer it here.

I found an article related to the topic here by Palash Ghosh.  According to Ghosh, 81% of Indian Americans supported Obama.

Gosh argues for the following:

  1. Obama’s support for India’s candidacy…

  1. Misthiocracy

    Could it be simply that Democrats show up at Indian-American events and meetings more often and more consistently than Republicans?

    The idea that “those who do not show up do not win” is the impetus behind the Conservative Party of Canada’s (largely successful) ethnic outreach strategy.

  2. Barkha Herman
    Misthiocracy: Could it be simply that Democrats show up at Indian-American events and meetings more often and more consistently than Republicans?

    The idea that “those who do not show up do not win” is the impetus behind the Conservative Party of Canada’s (largely successful) ethnic outreach strategy. · 0 minutes ago

    Could be.  My comments (and opinions) are largely based on my own conversations with other Indian Americans.  Since I am married to a “white boy”, I am certainly no expert on the matter.

    Incidentally, my husband, who has more creds for marrying me, sways more opinions than heathen old me (among Indian Americans).  Go figure!

  3. Amy Schley

    I’ve also heard that the stereotype of Republicans as anti-intellectual fools is quite damaging as well, given the traditional high esteem Indians have for teachers and the educated.

  4. D.C. McAllister
    C

    Thanks Barkha! I find this part very interesting: “Having grown up in British India, Indians are very sensitive to racial and social discrimination.  And it seems that all the Republican “stars” are Hindus that converted to Christianity, or were Christians to begin with.”

  5. Mendel

    I agree with Denise, this is a very interesting post.  

    Barkha, would you say that many or most Indian-Americans tend to have “conservative” tendencies once you get past the veneer of identity politics?  In other words, do they value self-reliance, fiscal responsibility, and the centrality of the family in the way conservatives do?  

    Based on the Indian-Americans I see around me here in Silicon Valley, hard work and tight families seem to be personal ideals of most, but I wonder if many of them fall into the “conservative in my own life, but liberal in politics” category the way many eastern Asians do.

  6. RushBabe49

    Did many of the Indian-Americans immigrate here to get away from the Socialism in India?   It seems to me that after winning independence from Britain, the Indians adopted big-government Socialism, and see where that left them.  The majority of Indian people are still dirt-poor, and their government is still hostile to capitalism.  Might their “brains” have stayed, if they could make it there?

  7. Cornelius Julius Sebastian

    Thanks for posting this, Barkha.   This is a very informative and helpful piece.  All the Indians I know are either doctors, Catholic priests (and great ones), or entrepreneurs.  The first and last often Hindu or Sikh.  I always presumed they were conservatives given their intelligence, business savvy,  and strong drive for self-reliance and achievement.   I see we have more work to do in the GOP….

  8. Tim H.

    Barkha, you mention the views of Hindus regarding Hindus who convert to Christianity (and who succeed in conservative American politics).  Nikki Haley grew up Sikh, rather than Hindu.  Do you believe this would affect the views of Hindu immigrants as much, or any differently?

  9. Fricosis Guy

    Isn’t there a difference between the Indians who come and repatriate — an increasing phenomenon in the tech sector — and those who come and stay?  My take is that those in the tech sector are more natural economic allies, but the Right has definite cultural and perception problems. 

    However, those who come to stay often come across with credentials they want to leverage in the US… and the Democratic Party is a more natural home for the credentialed class. 

  10. Barkha Herman
    Mendel: I agree with Denise, this is a very interesting post.  

    Barkha, would you say that many or most Indian-Americans tend to have “conservative” tendencies once you get past the veneer of identity politics?  In other words, do they value self-reliance, fiscal responsibility, and the centrality of the family in the way conservatives do?  

    Based on the Indian-Americans I see around me here in Silicon Valley, hard work and tight families seem to be personal ideals of most, but I wonder if many of them fall into the “conservative in my own life, but liberal in politics” category the way many eastern Asians do. 

    Mendel – I would say so.  Indians are more fiscally and socially conservative than other groups.  Strong work ethics, family ties.  etc.  This is why it is confounding to many Indian Americans who lean right that 80+% of them are Democrats.

  11. Barkha Herman
    RushBabe49: Did many of the Indian-Americans immigrate here to get away from the Socialism in India?   It seems to me that after winning independence from Britain, the Indians adopted big-government Socialism, and see where that left them.  The majority of Indian people are still dirt-poor, and their government is still hostile to capitalism.  Might their “brains” have stayed, if they could make it there? · 13 hours ago

    I think that financial opportunity is more of a driving factor than socialism; however, once they come here, they DO appreciate the freedoms we enjoy in this country.

    As for the Indian socialism, it is only after the “divestment” movement  in the 80s that India even became a player in the world community.

  12. Barkha Herman
    Devereaux: Barkha, the fact remains that this was created as a Christian nation, and has remained so, even up to now. However, ONE of the tenants of THIS Christian government was that no one could or should force anyone to a particular set of beliefs, so freedom of religion was one of the essential cornerstones of the nation. 

    That is why they immigrate here.  

    BTW – ours is not a CHRISTIAN government.  But yes, the sentiments behind this comment will drive a couple of them to embrace Democrats over Republicans.  At least a faction of Republicans use the party and the religion interchangeably.

  13. Nick Stuart

    Brings to mind here in Illinoistan where people move out to the suburbs to get away from the corrupt, kakistocracy of Cook County.

    Then they keep voting Democrat because, you know, those Republicans are icky or something.

  14. Colin B Lane

    Barkha, could there be a simpler explanation? Could it be that Indian-Americans, like many other recent immigrants, are unduly influenced by “mainstream” (more accurately, risibly biased) sources of news (e.g., CNN) and entertainment (e.g., Hollywood movies).

    I have a perception from reading about Bollywood that Indians have a love affair with the movies. If all you ever knew about Republicans and conservatives is what you saw in the movies, it would be hard to have a favorable opinion of this crowd.

  15. Barkha Herman
    Tim H.: Barkha, you mention the views of Hindus regarding Hindus who convert to Christianity (and who succeed in conservative American politics).  Nikki Haley grew up Sikh, rather than Hindu.  Do you believe this would affect the views of Hindu immigrants as much, or any differently? · 29 minutes ago

    Time – even though Sikhs and Buddhists think they are a separate religion, Hindus really don’t see the same differences.  My grandfather’s family is from a region in Punjab that is now in Pakistan where, the first son was kept home to support the family and grow crops, and the second was “given” to Sikhism to fight the invading Islamic forces.

     There are religions of the “book” and then there are the rest.  Incidentally, Indians believe in one god with many faces, so it is irrelevant what religion you are.  They were the original religious tolerant nation, look at the Zoroastrian community in India displaced by Islam for an example.  However, it was the systematic discrimination by Islam and Christianity that made them a bit “weary” of the religions of “the book”.

    Exclusive clubs are – well – exclusive.

  16. Barkha Herman
    Fricosis Guy: Isn’t there a difference between the Indians who come and repatriate — an increasing phenomenon in the tech sector — and those who come and stay?  My take is that those in the tech sector are more natural economic allies, but the Right has definite cultural and perception problems. 

    However, those who come to stay often come across with credentials they want to leverage in the US… and the Democratic Party is a more natural home for the credentialed class.  

    This is true - Academia is left leaning.  Perhaps that is why so many Indians are influenced by it.  However, every prominent Republican Indian American is also very credentialed.  So, it is possible to sway the opinion.

  17. Barkha Herman
    Colin B Lane: Barkha,Could there be a simpler explanation? Could it be that Indians Americans, like many other recent immigrants, are unduly influenced by “mainstream” (more accurately, risibly biased) sources of news (e.g., CNN) and entertainment (e.g., Hollywood movies). I have a perception from reading about Bollywood that Indians have a love affair with the movies. If all you ever knew about Republicans and conservatives is what you saw in the movies, it would be hard to have a favorable opinion of this crowd. · 14 minutes ago

    That is indeed a factor.  However, many Indians are small business owners.  You think that would change their minds?

    Mind you – Indians grew up in a bigger bureaucratic environment created by the British.  They know instinctively that Government is something to work around.

  18. D.C. McAllister
    C

    After reading through everything you wrote and the articles again, Dalmia and you, Barkha, really illuminate the issue for me. As you know, my daughter goes to school with a large Indian population. She’s on both the Science Olympiad team and the Speech and Debate team, all of which are loaded with Indians and then my daughter (one of the sole white girls). She adores her Indian friends and loves their cultures (attending many of their parties–they have a name but it escapes me now). At any rate, because she is so close to her friends, she is frustrated that they don’t see eye to eye on politics. They agree on so much, but they just love Obama, and being that they’re young they don’t always express clearly what their attraction is. I talked to my daughter about some of the points made here and she agreed that tolerance perceptions among Democrats is huge, as is the “cool” factor and Hollywood influence mentioned by Dalmia in the Reason article as well as the perceived intolerance of Christianity. My daughter said her friends aren’t put off by Christians at all, only that they… contd.

  19. The upshot is, more low information voters.

  20. Boymoose

    Indians want to be cool!  I know it is a high school answer but its true.

    Why would a Jew be liberal ….. because they want to be cool!

    Not that complicated.

    Next Question…..

Want to comment on stories like these? Become a member today!

You'll have access to:

  • All Ricochet articles, posts and podcasts.
  • The conversation amongst our members.
  • The opportunity share your Ricochet experiences.

Join Today!

Already a Member? Sign In