Hindus veering toward the GOP?

The recent Republican upset in Virginia’s gubernatorial race suggests an emerging shift of political views and affiliations among Hindu Indian Americans, writes Maggie Phillips in The Tablet (December 15). She notes that the demographics of Loudoun County, which was important in the victory of Governor-elect Glenn Youngkin, were largely overlooked by reporters. Asians are the area’s second-largest racial/ethnic group after whites, and both incumbent Terry McAuliffe and Youngkin had reached out to Hindu community leaders as part of their campaigns to reach Asian American voters. While Hindu Americans may not have been the electoral tipping point for Youngkin, observers see a potential partisan shift toward the GOP among this predominantly immigrant group. While Indian Americans overall tend to identify as Democrats, breaking down political preferences by religion and immigration status changes the picture somewhat. Utsav Chakrabarti, director of the policy research group HinduPACT, sees Hindu Americans as a distinct group apart from other South Asians, such as Muslims. He notes that whereas 82 percent of Muslim respondents in the Carnegie Endowment’s recent Indian American Attitudes Survey said that they planned to vote for President Biden in the 2020 election, only 67 percent of Hindus did. The survey found that naturalized Indian Americans who had been in the U.S. more than a decade preferred Biden, whereas those who had arrived in the past decade showed stronger support for Trump.

Phillips reports that “While naturalized Indian Americans…were still less likely as a whole to vote and have weaker partisan affiliation compared to U.S.-born Indian Americans, Chakrabarti thinks this is changing, especially among Hindu Americans. Suhag Shukla, executive director of the Hindu American Foundation, said in an email that in her anecdotal experience, she has seen an increase in the number of Indian Americans getting involved in electoral politics.” The number of Hindus in northern Virginia has grown in recent years, with a rough estimate of there being over 200,000 in Virginia and Maryland, many of them working in the tech fields. Phillips writes that the strong emphasis on education among Hindus contributed to the GOP’s inroads among them during the campaign, as they believed that merit was being sacrificed by Virginia schools in the name of diversity. “Many Indian American parents were activated,” said Shukla. “I only see this spreading to other states, especially given the importance placed on education in so many Hindu American households.” Last November, Republicans opened a community center in Dallas as part of their outreach to Indian and Asian Americans, with the opening ceremony including a Hindu priest, a Diwali candle-lighting, and speakers’ referencing the recent Virginia electoral upset. While a massive shift to the GOP among Hindus is unlikely in the short term, “the values and priorities of Hindu voters who did back the GOP candidate in Virginia could still prove to be something of a bellwether” for the 2022 midterm elections.

(The Tablet, https://www.tabletmag.com/sections/community/articles/chasing-the-hindu-vote)