While holding relatively liberal views when it comes to US politics, Indian Americans are conservative when it comes to issues back in India, a survey of the community has found.
For example, it says, “Hindus and non-Hindus agree (the latter more so) that white supremacy is a threat in the United States, but significantly diverge on the threat posed by Hindu majoritarianism in India.”
The online survey, conducted in September 2020 by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Johns Hopkins University, and the University of Pennsylvania, covered 1,200 Indian American adult residents. The second largest immigrant group in the US, Indian Americans number around 4.2 million, of which 38% are non-citizens.
On the issue of China too, the community was split. “Indian Americans are divided about US efforts to strengthen India’s military as a check against China. Foreign-born Indian Americans and those who identify as Republicans are more supportive of US efforts to support India militarily than their US-born and Democratic counterparts…” the survey found. Overall, Indian Americans held a more unfavourable view of China than the general US population.
A little over half believed Hindu majoritarianism was a threat to minorities in India, while as many as 73% saw white supremacy in the US as a threat to minorities. Only 40% of the Hindus were apprehensive of Hindu majoritarianism, compared to 67% of the non-Hindus.
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On whether India was “on the right track”, 36% agreed, while 39% felt this is not the case. Far more foreign-born Indian Americans thought positively of the direction in which India is going than US-born Indian Americans.
The largest chunk of the population, 35%, identified themselves as “pro-India” but critical of some of the current government’s policies. Another 23% were also pro-India but critical of many politics. Seventeen per cent were positive about both India and the current government.
On specific issues, the majority either strongly or somewhat supported the plans for a National Register of Citizens and the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, at 55% and 51% respectively. However, they were opposed to the use of police force on peaceful protesters, and of defamation and sedition laws against reporters and others critical of the Modi government.
Asked about caste considerations in university admissions, the community was divided. However, in response to somewhat parallel issues in the US context, Indian Americans were distinctly more liberal. For example, 60% opposed former US President Donald Trump’s 2017 ban on arrivals from certain Muslim-majority countries and 54% supported affirmative action in US education systems.
While the majority thought US support for India was just what it should be currently, 24% believed the country was not helpful enough, and 12% said the reality was just the opposite.
Among the challenges facing India, government corruption ranked highest (18% cited it), followed by economy (15%), religious majoritarianism (10%), healthcare (8%), China (7%), terrorism (7%), caste discrimination (6%), education (6%), income inequality (5%), climate change (4%), and sexism (4%).
Most respondents (40%) did not pick any party when asked about an Indian political party they identified with, but a third (33%) chose the BJP, 12% went for the Congress, and 16% picked the others.
The survey also found a correlation between supporters of Modi and the BJP and those who back the Republican Party. Modi remained the top choice among Hindus (69% approved of him), getting 20% to 33% support among other communities. By profession, Modi had the most support among engineers (61%) than non-engineers (48%).
Roughly 16% of the community supported religious organisations in India in the last year. Interestingly, US-born Indian Americans are more likely to do so (at 21%) than those who are foreign-born (13%). Overall, 20% supported a secular nonprofit organisation in India over the past year.