Donald Trump Gains Votes from Asian Immigrants

US President Donald Trump speaks during a rally at Toledo Express Airport in Swanton, Ohio
MANDEL NGAN/AFP via Getty Images

President Donald Trump is on track to raise his share of Asian American voters to perhaps 35 percent in 2020, up from perhaps 27 percent in 2016.

Asian Americans are just five percent of the nation’s voters, and most are concentrated in blue states along the coasts. But every slice of voters is vital in an election that may be decided by just a few tens of thousands of voters in North Carolina, Nevada, Georgia, and other states.

A September 15 poll of 1,569 voters showed Trump’s support at 30 percent, with 15 percent saying “don’t know.”

But he scored 37 percent support in swing states outside New York and California. Also, 37 percent of Asian voters said they have a “very favorable” or “somewhat favorable” view of Trump, compared to a 53 percent positive response to Joe Biden.

The September poll also showed that GOP candidates have 34 percent support from Asian voters, plus some share of the 18 percent who said they had not picked a candidate.

The poll comes as other data shows how identity-politics Democrats underestimated the popularity of Trump’s populist policies among Latinos.

In the Asian poll, Trump’s support was strongest among Vietnamese Americans, at 48 percent, and weakest among Chinese Americans, at just 20 percent.

Indian American voters offered Trump just 28 percent support, with only six percent undecided despite Trump’s repeated support for Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

A major issue for Indian American voters is the campaign by Fortune 500 companies to provide fast-track green cards to the hundreds of thousands of Indians who are being imported for white-collar jobs via the H-1B, J-1, OPT, and L-1 worker pipelines. The Senate bill offering more green cards, S.386, has been blocked by GOP senators. The unpopular bill was blocked because it would dramatically help Fortune 500 CEOs dangle offers of green cards to recruit many more Indians for Americans’ white-collar jobs.

Trump is getting support from some Indian American voters, including Indian Voices for Trump. The Indian Voices group has eclipsed the Republican Hindu Coalition, which supported Trump in 2016.

The Indian Voices group is run by Al Mason, a real estate investor. The co-chair is Mrinalini Kumari.

However, Trump’s base consists of Americans who worry about losing their jobs and communities to imported workers. The base delivered him into the White House in 2016, leaving him little room to woo the subset of Asian immigrant voters who want more immigration and more diversity.

For 2020, Trump is offering “pro-American immigration” policies plus deregulation for business.

In contrast, Biden is offering a combination of Wall Street’s cheap-labor policies and progressives’ support for large-scale migration and diversity. Biden’s running mate, Kamala Harris, is the daughter of an Indian immigrant.

But Trump may not need migration concessions to win votes from Asian American voters, just as he does not need to offer amnesty to win large slices of the Latino vote. These nonwhite voters have a variety of normal reasons to oppose the Democrats’ corrosive policies on the economy, university admissions, policing, foreign policy, and cultural issues such as racial claims and transgender promotion.

For example, the Times of India reported September 18 on the administration’s outreach to Indian American voters, which emphasized national security rather than free movement of Indian workers:

At the formal launch event of Indian Voices for Trump, Eric [Trump] referred to his father’s foreign policy on China and Pakistan, which he said “is very different from his predecessors.”

“I think that’s very different than past presidents, to tell you the truth. I think when you see how past presidents have emboldened China. And you see the problems that Indians are having with China and will likely have with China and in fact the whole world will probably have with China at some point. You know the problems with Pakistan better than I ever will,” he said.

In his welcome address, Indian Voices for Trump board member Ritesh Desai thanked President Trump and his family for supporting Indian-Americans and strengthening U.S.-India ties.

India and the United States are natural allies, Desai said at the September 17 meeting in Georgia.

The September survey was run by Asian Americans Advancing Justice, APIAVote, and AAPI Data. The New York Times downplayed Trump’s gains as it reported Setempber 15:

“Through this survey, we see that Asian-Americans are ready to exercise their power,” said John C. Yang, the head of Asian Americans Advancing Justice – AAJC, an advocacy group that co-sponsored the survey.

In contrast, the data about Trump’s claimed 27 percent score in 2016 came from a small-scale exit poll, NPR reported. The 2017 data came from a much larger survey by the Democrat-leaning Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF):

The difference in the [two survey’] results lies, in large part, because of how the polling was conducted. AALDEF surveyed close to 14,000 Asian-American voters, more than 14 times the number of Asian-American participants in Edison Research’s [exit] poll.

While Edison Research conducted polling in English and Spanish, AALDEF used questionnaires written in English and 11 Asian languages including Chinese, Bengali, Korean, Tagalog, and Vietnamese, plus volunteers who could speak 23 Asian languages and dialects.

Both the 2020 AAJC poll and the 2017 AALDEF poll show that Trump’s vote share was very different in the various groups of Asian immigrants.

Some of the groups are antagonistic to each other, and they have different priorities over trade, integration, economics, migration, and national security.

For example, Trump got 24 percent of Chinese American votes in 2016, says AALDEF. Trump now gets 20 percent support in the AAJC’s 2020 survey, plus some share of the 23 percent “don’t know” responses in the AAJC survey.

In contrast, Trump got 14 percent of Indians’ vote in 2016 and may reach 28 percent in 2020, according to the two surveys.

In 2016, Trump got just nine percent of Arab American votes, 14 percent of Korean American votes, 27 percent of Filipino American votes, and 32 percent of Vietnamese American votes, according to the 2017 survey.

The AAJC’s 2020 poll showed Trump’s declared support was higher outside blue-state New York and California.


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