US Politics: No, Most Indian-Americans Do Not Support Donald Trump
“Trump goes Bollywood” declared one headline after the GOP presidential nominee addressed thousands of attendees at a rally organized by the Republican Hindu Coalition (RHC) last week. Billed as a charity event for Kashmiri and Bengali victims of Islamic terror, the glitzy but oftentimes bizarre event featured song and dance performances by B-list Bollywood stars that culminated into a long and predictably rambling speech by Trump himself.
The candidate assured the massive crowd that he “was a big fan of Hindu” and that India and the United States would be “best friends” should he be elected. He heaped praise and compared himself to India’s hugely popular Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and reiterated the importance a Trump Administration would place on the U.S.-India relationship. The event constituted the most extensive and exhaustive minority outreach effort by his campaign to date.
The rally has created an impression that Trump enjoys widespread support among the Indian-American community. This impression has only been strengthened in recent days by headlines highlighting his efforts to court the Indian-American community and his purportedpopularity among right-wing Hindu nationalists both in India and the U.S.
Although this is perplexing to most observers given his well-established hostility toward virtually all minorities, this impression has persisted. How else can one explain the more than 8,000 Indian and Hindu Americans who showed up the RHC’s event last week? Put differently, why does most of the Indian-American community support Donald Trump?
Simply put, it does not.
Huge segments of the Indian-American population across the country reacted to Trump’s RHC fundraiser and its Islamophobic dog whistling with some combination of confusion, outrage, amusement and pity. Many expressed surprise that their fellow community members would attend a Trump event at all.
But as several news outlets covering the Edison rally reported, most of the attendees they interviewed either had no idea the fundraiser had a political purpose or had come to see the Bollywood performances and enjoy savory Indian street snacks, not to support Trump.
While Trump addressed the crowd inside the arena flanked by men sporting dazzling gold-and-blue costumes, wielding light sabers and gyrating to upbeat music, scores of community members, party leaders and elected officials gathered outside to protest Trump’s appearance.
“We don’t think it’s right for someone from out of state to come here and raise political issues with our faith and say they speak for over 3.4 million Indian-Americans across the country, even more Muslim-Americans, and South Asian communities as a whole,” said Amit Jani, the rally’s organizer and state representative for South Asians for Hillary. “Most Indian Americans vote Democratic and most Indian Americans oppose Donald Trump,” he added.
This view is confirmed by recent polls. The results of one recent surveyindicated that more than 67% of Indian Americans supported Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton while only a paltry 7% voted for Trump in the primaries. This actually represents a sharp decline from 2012, when 16% supported the GOP nominee Mitt Romney. Further, it demonstrates the extent to which Indian American support for the GOP has eroded ever since Trump became its party leader. The poll also found that a whopping 79% of Indian Americans had an unfavorable view of the New York billionaire.
Trump’s low standing among Indian Americans should come as no surprise. As Shekar Narasiman, Chairman of the AAPI Victory Fund, explains, “Indian Americans are mostly immigrants to this country and Donald Trump is the most anti-immigrant candidate for president in modern history.”
Among the very few Indian Americans who do appear to support Trump, some have focused on, and have even expressed admiration for, his anti-Muslim rhetoric. They are hopeful it will ultimately translate into policies tough on Pakistan and thus beneficial to India, should Trump win the White House. It is not uncommon for theseviews to be accompanied by the bigotry, xenophobia and prejudice that have become such hallmark features of Trump’s own campaign.
But these individuals represent a small minority. Make no mistake about it: The Indian American community, for the most part, rejects Donald Trump.