Election 2020

How South Asian Voters Shaped the 2020 Election

Kiran Misra
Published in
8 min readNov 8, 2020


A woman wearing face mask holds a sign that says “desis for Biden Harris.”
A supporter holds a sign while listening to Kamala Harris, Democratic Vice Presidential nominee, speaks at a “Get Out The Vote” rally at Morehouse College on October 23, 2020, in Atlanta, Georgia. Photo: ELIJAH NOUVELAGE/AFP/Getty Images

South Asian Americans make up around 2% of the American population and comprise an even smaller percent of registered voters in the United States. But you wouldn’t know it from the outsized effort candidates made to target the desi vote this election cycle.

For the first time in United States history, political analysts projected that South Asian Americans would be a key factor that tipped not only the presidential vote in key swing states, but also electoral decisions in local races nationwide. Now that a president-elect and the vice president-elect have been decided, the role the South Asian American vote played in this historic election is clear.

Here’s why:

  • In no small part due to the growing number of South Asian Americans working on political campaigns across the country, the 2020 election cycle saw a record number of advertisements and candidate pitches targeted directly to segments of the South Asian American population, followed by soaring Asian American voter turnout.
  • A record-breaking number of South Asian candidates ran for office this cycle. From Nithya Raman (D), who made waves in Los Angeles with her progressive campaign for city council, to Sri Kulkarni (D), who hoped to turn Texas blue by gaining a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives to Sara Gideon (D), who nearly unseated Susan Collins in Maine, and several dozen more across the country.
  • The prediction that either Donald Trump’s alliance with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi or president-elect Joe Biden and vice president-elect Kamala Harris’s past criticism of Hindu nationalist policies in India would specifically sway Indian American voters to the Republican party largely did not pan out. A nationally representative poll of Indian voters conducted by YouGov showed that Democrats can continue to be secure in their ability to capture at least the Indian American vote.
  • As the Asian American population continues growing more quickly than any other immigrant group in the country, national campaigns will no longer be able to avoid targeted outreach to South Asian American voters.

For decades, historically low voter turnout in the Asian American community and a lack of…