In 1960, there were only 12,000 Indians in the United States of America. The number grew to 4.5 lakh, 30 years later in 1990.
The number grew multiple times to 46 lakh Indians in 2020 in America. In 2018, Indians were the second largest group to migrate to the US after Mexico. 26.5 lakh people migrated to the US in 2018 which makes 5.9% of total immigrant population. The number of Indian American voters is increasing by about 1.5 lakh every year.
A third of the total number is done by naturalization (a legal act by which a non-citizen can obtain citizenship of that country), and the rest two-thirds is done by children of the immigrants reaching voting age.
Overall, the Indian Americans contribute less than one percent to the total voters in the US elections. This might seem that Indian Americans do not have any significance to the American elections however, the truth is far more than this assumption.
US Presidential nominees need money to run their political campaigns and they rely on their hardcore supporters for it. The American Community Survey estimated that nationwide median household income in the US was US$ 61,937 in 2018. According to this survey, Indian Americans’ median household income was US$ 123,453 which is around twice the national average and highest for every race or ethnicity.
This explains why Indian Americans alone contributed more than $3 million to 2020 presidential campaigns. Indian Americans are generally wealthy because most of them work under the IT sector which is highly rewarding. Indian Americans contributed most to the Democratic Vice-Presidential nominee, Kamala Harris.
She received 387,800 till June 30 closely followed by a Hindu nominee, Tulsi Gabbard.
There are about 1.9 million Indian-American voters who constitute around 0.82 percent of the total voters. By just numbers, it doesn’t seem like that Indian-Americans hold any decisive power in terms of votes in US Presidential elections. But, there is a twist. Unlike Indian elections, American political system has a “winner-takes-all” system through which any party which has the most popular votes (or just votes, as called in India) in a particular state, gets all the electoral votes (or seats, as called in India).
Since, there are only two major political parties in the US; Republican Party and Democratic Party, one of them always wins the election. In the 2016 US Presidential elections, Donald Trump got less popular votes than his opponent Hillary Clinton but still got elected as President because of the electoral system. So, even if you get only one more popular vote or vote than your rival, even then you will get all the electoral votes or seats of the state.
There are states in the US which generally tend to favour Republicans and are generally won by them and on the other hand, there are states too which lean towards Democrats. So, the US Presidential elections are highly dependent on “swing states” which don’t lean towards any party heavily and are decided by a slim margin of popular votes.
Indian Americans play a significant role in these states. Even though Hillary Clinton got 29 lakh more votes than Donald Trump in the 2016 Presidential elections, Trump won by simply 77,744 extra votes in three states. This enabled him to bag all the 46 electoral votes or seats of Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania. So, swing states play a vital role in the Presidential elections of the US.
There are a significant number of Indian-Americans in these swing states which can play an important role in deciding the fate of the candidates. In Wisconsin, the victory margin was 22,748 votes in 2016 and the number of Indian-Americans in the state is around 37,000 which is bigger than the victory margin. Similarly in the state of Pennsylvania, the victory margin in 2016 was 44,292 and the number of Indian-Americans in the state is about 1,56,000. There are many other states like these in which the number of the Indian-American is larger or somewhat around the victory margins of those states.
Generally, Indian-American voters tend to favour Democrats because of their lesser strict immigration policies. This time, 72% of all the Indian-Americans are more likely to vote for Democratic nominee Joe Biden and the rest Trump, according to a survey by YouGov and Carnegie Endowment.
To sum it up, Indian-Americans are important in US politics because they are generally rich and can fund political campaigns. Moreover, they can decide the outcome of swing states to a great extent and can thus play a critical role in deciding the most powerful person on the planet.