1.2 million Indian-origin voters in 2020 elections

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FILE PHOTO: A man in a surgical mask walks by goods for sale emblazoned with U.S. President Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign slogan “Make America Great Again”, after more cases of coronavirus were confirmed in New York City, New York, U.S., March 10, 2020. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly/File Photo

NEW YORK – In the age of the coronavirus, there is growing consensus for online Presidential elections this November, if the virus crisis goes on that long, or disrupts the normal voting schedule in some states. The upcoming census will prep Americans for that, no doubt, with the option to send the form online in the privacy of one’s home.

While Democrats will feel more confident of their chances in an only online voting poll, what’s also important is the massive number of immigrants-turned naturalized citizens who would be eligible to vote in this election.

While these new voters are dispersed across the nation, they will undoubtedly make a difference in some critical districts.

More than 23 million US immigrants will be eligible to vote in the 2020 presidential election, making up roughly 10% of the nation’s overall electorate – both record highs, according to Pew Research Center estimates based on Census Bureau data.

The number of immigrant eligible voters has increased steadily over the past 20 years, up 93% since 2000. By comparison, the US-born eligible voter population grew more slowly (by 18%) over the same period, from 181 million in 2000 to 215 million in 2020, said the Pew report released this week.

Like the previous census numbers, the nation’s immigrant voters have diverse backgrounds. Most immigrant eligible voters are either Hispanic or Asian, though they hail from countries across the globe. Immigrants from Mexico make up the single largest group, at 16% of foreign-born voters. More than half of all U.S. immigrants (56%) live in the country’s four most populous states: California, New York, Texas and Florida. Two-thirds have lived in the U.S. for more than 20 years and 63% are proficient in English, according to Pew.

Growth in the foreign-born eligible voter population reflects two broad US population trends. First, the number of immigrants living in the US has increased steadily since 1965, when the Immigration and Nationality Act became law. Then, the nation’s 9.6 million immigrants made up just 5% of the population. Today, 45 million immigrants live in the country, accounting for about 13.9% of the population. Most are either from Latin America or Asia.

Second, says Pew, a rising number and share of immigrants living in the US have naturalized in recent years. Between 2009 and 2019, 7.2 million immigrants naturalized and became citizens, according to the US Department of Homeland Security. In fiscal year 2018 alone, more than 756,000 immigrants naturalized.

According to Pew, for US voters overall, immigration policy issues have risen in importance recently. Immigration also has risen as a priority the public thinks Congress and the president should address. This has been especially true for US Latinos under Donald Trump’s presidency.

Many of the administration’s proposed policy changes, such as expanding the U.S.-Mexico border wall and limiting legal immigration, have generated strong, polarized reactions from the public. These proposals may also affect how immigrants see their place in America and the potential role they could play in the 2020 presidential election, the report said.

At 7.5 million, Hispanics account for 34% of all immigrant eligible voters in 2018, slightly up since 2000. The 6.9 million Asian immigrant eligible voters make up 31% of the foreign-born electorate, also slightly up since 2000.

White immigrant eligible voters (4.8 million) are the third largest racial and ethnic group, making up 22% of the immigrant electorate. However, nearly two decades ago, white immigrants made up 30% of foreign-born eligible voters, a higher share than that of Asians and comparable to that of Hispanics at the time. Today, black immigrant eligible voters (2.3 million) make up the smallest share of the immigrant electorate included in this analysis, though this has grown from 7% in 2000 to 10% in 2018.

Immigrants make up far higher shares of Asian and Hispanic eligible voters than of white and black voters. Two-thirds (67%) of Asian eligible voters are immigrants, while a quarter of Hispanic eligible voters are immigrants. This somewhat reflects the overall populations of these two groups, as 77% of Asian adults and 46% of Hispanic adults are immigrants, said Pew.

By contrast, immigrant shares among black eligible voters (8%) and white eligible voters (3%) are far lower. Immigrants are smaller in number among the adult populations of these groups, making up roughly 12% of black adults and 5% of white adults.

The countries of birth of immigrant eligible voters are varied and highlight the group’s diversity. There are 3.5 million immigrant eligible voters from Mexico, more than from any other country. Philippines had 1.4 million, India had 1.2 million, and China and Vietnam followed with 1 million each.

Politico reported last month that Republicans have been trying for years — with limited success — to make inroads with Indian Americans, one of the fastest-growing ethnic groups in the United States. Previous campaigns reached out to the Indian American community, largely through in-person events or literature, but likely didn’t purchase ads specific to the community.

“Even with some of the president’s divisive language and plans on immigration, Trump’s team thinks it has a better chance this year because of Trump’s policies, his outreach efforts and his praise for Modi, who is popular in India”, the report said.

That would be a huge turnaround given the fact that Trump’s job approval among Indian Americans was only 28 percent in 2018, according to the Asian American Voter Survey, a poll of registered Asian American voters. About 66 percent of respondents disapproved of how the president was handling his job.

In 2016, more than 80 percent of Indian Americans voted for Trump’s 2016 opponent, Hillary Clinton, according to polling by the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund, noted Politico.

(Sujeet Rajan is Executive Editor, Parikh Worldwide Media. Email him: sujeet@newsindiatimes.com Follow him on twitter: @SujeetRajan1)

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