Prime Minister Narendra Modi is all set to address around 50,000 Indian-Americans on Sunday at the Howdy Modi’ event in Houston, a major city in Texas. United States President and Republican Party leader Donald Trump will also accompany Modi.

While this event is speculated to improve Indo-US ties, it is also imperative to see what political benefits it adds to Trump’s kitty.

Analysing the American Community Survey 2017 statistics and poll surveys conducted on Indian-Americans during the general elections of 2016, India Today Data Intelligence Unit (DIU) has found that Trump was not a preferred choice in most US states habitated by Indians.

State-Wise Indian Population In US

According to American Community Survey 2017 estimates, there are roughly 40 lakh Asian-Americans (or Indian-Americans) living in the United States, which form 1.3 per cent of their total population.

In absolute figures, the highest number of Indians reside in California (7.3 lakh), followed by New York (3.7 lakh), New Jersey (3.7 lakh), Texas (3.5 lakh), Illinois (2.3 lakh) and Florida (1.5 lakh).

Of the 50 states in US, there were 16 such states where the percentage of Indian-Americans was more than 1 per cent.

In percentage terms, New Jersey tops the list with 4.1 per cent Indian Americans. It is followed by Rhode Island (3.36%), New York (1.88%), Illinois (1.81%), California (1.8%) and Delaware (1.61%).

Indians Concentrated In Democrat Areas

Of the 16 states where the percentage of Indian- Americans was more than 1 per cent, 10 had opted for Democratic Party candidate Hillary Clinton and six for Republican candidate Donald Trump.

To understand the voting pattern of Indian-Americans, DIU took two publications into consideration UPI/CVoter poll (sample size 500) and 2016 Post-Election National Asian American Survey (sample size 4,393). Both poll surveys showed that Indian-Americans largely voted for Democrats in the 2016 general elections.

The UPI/CVoter poll survey showed that 57.6 per cent Indian- Americans opted for Hillary Clinton as their President whereas 29.3 per cent had opted for Donald Trump.

It might be noted here that among other minorities, Indian-Americans opting for Clinton was the lowest in terms of percentage. Clinton was favoured by roughly 90 per cent African-Americans, 75.3 per cent Hispanics and 72 per cent other Asians.

The National Asian American Survey (NAAS) shows a different picture. According to it, 77 per cent Indian-Americans voted for Clinton and 16 per cent for Trump.

The NAAS also showed that around 31 per cent Indian-American respondents were strong Democrats; the number of strong Republicans was hardly 4 per cent.

Divided They Stand

In the states where the population of Indians was high (in percentage terms), Indians seemed to be divided in their voting preferences, the UPI/CVoter data showed.

Though New Jersey, the state with the highest percentage of Indian-Americans, gave a clear lead to Clinton, Indian- Americans here were divided.

In New Jersey, 53.7 per cent Indian-American respondents preferred Clinton, while 25.2 per cent vouched for Trump. Some 16.3 per cent Indian-Americans preferred other candidates and 4.9 per cent did not have an opinion.

In New York, the percentage of Indian-Americans opting for Trump and Clinton was nearly equal. In Illinois, 61.1 per cent Indian-Americans opted for Clinton, 27.8 per cent for Trump, 5.6 for others and 5.6 per cent had no opinion.

In Texas, 62.5 per cent Indian-Americans opted for Clinton, 18.8 per cent for Trump and 18.8 for others.

Expert Opinion

Neelanjan Sircar, Senior Fellow at the Centre for Policy Research (CPR), believes that Indian-American voters mostly go with Democrats and the Modi-Trump event in Texas is unlikely to change their preferences.

A recent book by Sanjoy Chakravorty, Devesh Kapur and Nirvikar Singh has established that Indian-Americans are unusually supportive of the Democratic Party. Wealthier voters in America support Republican Party on the whole. But Indian-Americans, the wealthiest ethnic group in US, vote for Democrats, Sircar said.

The Modi-Trump event in Texas may be crucial for Indo-US ties, foreign policy and businesses, but it is unlikely to seriously impact voting patterns of Indian-Americans. American voters tend to be strongly devoted to one party or the other and don’t change their support easily, Sircar added.

Psephologist and founder of CVoter, Yashwant Deshmukh, believes that the Modi-Trump meet might be helpful in pulling Indian-American voters towards the Republicans.

My observation on Indian voters suggests that Indian-Americans are not ghetto voters. Though they have been overwhelmingly supporting the Democrats for the last three elections, but it’s not necessary that they’ll stick to a certain party, the way an ordinary US voter would do. Concentrated on the East and West coast, Indians mostly live in the blue belts (Democrat-ruled areas) of the United States. The Modi-Trump event in Houston could prove to be a turning point, said Deshmukh.

Deshmukh also spoke about the declining popularity of Democrats in recent times among Indian-American voters. You see, the nominees of the Democratic Party are quite critical of the Modi government and their opinions on Kashmir might not be welcomed by the Indian-American community, he said.

Deshmukh also believes that this meet-up could be a good opportunity for Trump to tilt the fluid Indian voters on the Republican side the way former British PM David Cameron did.

Cameron had already won the 2015 elections, but he knew that Indians, particularly Gujarati NRIs, had been strong supporters of the Labour Party, from which Labour leaders such as Barry Gardiner were benefiting for long. Cameron shared the stage with Modi in Wembley just to change that trend. This became a huge move in shifting the Indian-British vote bank and the Tories still reap its benefits, Deshmukh said.