BY KARTHICK RAMAKRISHNAN
President Trump hosts India Prime Minister Narendra Modi today for a meeting and working dinner, and if their prefatory remarks on Twitter are any indication, there is a high level of mutual public admiration between the two leaders.
While President Trump may enjoy public support from Modi, the same is not true for his support among Indian Americans. There are nearly 4 million people of Asian Indian origin living in the United States, and the group is growing rapidly in terms of its economic and political clout, whether measured by campaign contributions, elected members of Congress, or voting.
According to data from the 2016 Post-Election National Asian American Survey, Trump won only 16 percent of the Indian American vote in 2016. This was the same level of support that Mitt Romney won in 2012, and suggests that the rise of groups like Hindu Americans for Trump, and events like presidential candidate Trump’s Hindu American rally in October 2016 did little to improve his standing among Indian American or Hindu American voters. (In results not yet published, the 2016 NAAS data show that only 16% of American Hindus voted for Trump).
President Trump fares slightly better when looking at favorability. After the 2016 election, 32% of Indian Americans and 35% of American Hindus held a favorable view of President Trump. Still, a majority in each group (55% of Indian Americans and 54% of American Hindus) held unfavorable views of President Trump, with 37% of Indian Americans holding very unfavorable views of the President.
There are also several aspects of President Trump’s agenda that are at odds with the preferences of the majority of Indian Americans. 70% of Indian Americans support the Affordable Care Act (or Obamacare), 78% oppose a ban on Muslims entering the United States, and 80% support stricter limits on emissions to address climate change. Nearly two thirds of Indian Americans (65%) also support a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. Many Indian American groups were also critical of President Trump’s delayed reaction to the Srinivas Kuchibhotla murder/hate crime in Kansas, and there has been a ten-fold increase of Indian immigrants seeking jobs back in India after President Trump’s election and calls for a clampdown on H1B visas.
President Trump has a very steep hill to climb among Indian Americans, and it remains to be seen whether his meeting with Indian Prime Minister Modi will help improve his standing among Indian Americans, an increasingly important ethnic group in the United States.