In keeping with rising ambitions to be more involved in American politics up and down the ballot, Indian-American and the broader Asian-American community is putting its money where its mouth is – not just to support candidates in various states, but also invest in research on voting patterns.
That indicates a long-term commitment to incremental gains in the future.
Apart from academics and think tanks investing in research on Party ID, opinion surveys etc. of Indian-Americans, political action committees have swung into action in a major way and energized massive contributions from the community to support grassroots activism, media penetration and voter registration drives.
This was very evident not only during the Nov. 3, 2020 general elections, but also most recently in the Jan. 5, 2021 runoff elections in Georgia to fill two U.S. Senate seats on Capitol Hill.
The Nov. 3 elections brought numerous Indian-American state legislators to office, and Jan. 5, saw two Georgia Senators giving the Democrats a close to decisive vote in the U.S. Senate to make a major impact on Democratic power during the incoming Presidency of Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris.
The Indian-American Impact Fund (IMPACT) pledged $10 million to the general elections, and another $2.5 million into the Georgia Senate races, to help boost Asian-American turnout,” the organization said in a Jan. 5 press release.
This leading Indian American advocacy group and political action committee, used the resources for digital ads, mail pieces, and grassroots organizing.
Before voting day, IMPACT conducted what it says was “the most comprehensive” poll of AAPI voters in Georgia that identified important voter preferences and demographics. The poll showed overwhelming AAPI support and enthusiasm for Democratic Senate candidates.
“In a race that will decide control of the U.S. Senate, Asian American voters are poised to be the tipping point in determining the outcome,” Neil Makhija, Executive Director of IMPACT, said. “AAPI voters – and South Asians in particular – are flexing our newfound political muscle to advance equality and opportunity for all.”
It is not clear yet what the real impact of Indian-American or Asian American voters was on the victory of the Democratic Senators, but IMPACT found that in the 2020 elections, Georgia saw a 91 percent increase in AAPI voter turnout over 2016, and exit polls showed Asian American voters preferred Joe Biden to President Trump by a 2 to 1 margin, The Washington Post reported based on TargetSmart, a Democratic firm. The growth exceeded that of any other ethnic or racial group.
Biden won Georgia by 14,000 in a state where there are an estimated 238,000 eligible AAPI voters, and a population of over 150,000 being Indian Americans, IMPACT said.
The Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF) in its exit poll of the Georgia Jan. 5, 2021 runoff election voting, found two out of three Asian-American voters favored Senators-elect Rev. Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff, the Democrats running against Republican challengers Kelly Loeffler and David Purdue.
According to AALDEF Executive Director Margaret Fung, “Asian American voters played a critical role in electing Warnock and Ossoff in two extremely close races that will result in Democratic control of the U.S. Senate. Asian American voters must no longer be ignored in the political process.”
AALDEF has conducted its Asian American Exit Poll and monitored polling places in every major election since 1988. This year, AALDEF’s Exit Poll and Poll Monitoring program faced many challenges related to the COVID-19 pandemic, mail-in voting, and early voting–all of which created challenges for interacting with voters in real time on Election Day, as has been done in past elections.
In the Georgia runoff elections, AALDEF volunteers polled more than 270 Asian Americans in Gwinnett, DeKalb, and Fulton counties. Of those polled, 29 percent were Korean, 23 percent were Indian-American (aka Asian Indian), 4 percent were Pakistani, and 8 percent were Other Asian Ethnicity.
Arming themselves with critical information based on data about the community is empowering political organizations to better serve the interests of the Indian-American and Asian-American communities, to strengthen their place at the national policy-making table. That is evident from the significant number of Indian-Americans now being nominated and appointed in the incoming Biden-Harris administration.