…Additionally, there are also industry-wide Indian American groupings including the Asian American Hotel Owners Association and the Association of American Physicians of Indian Origin. Despite being heavily religious and having the highest average household income among all ancestry groups in the United States, Indian Americans tend to be more liberal and tend to vote overwhelmingly for Democrats. Polls before the 2004 U.S. Presidential Election showed Indian Americans favoring Democratic candidate John Kerry favored over Republican George W. Bush by a 53% to 14% margin (nearly a 4 to 1 ratio), with 30% undecided at the time….
Unlike other Asian American groups, such as the Japanese or Chinese, Indian Americans are strongly “confessionalized.” By this, I mean they identify with a religious tradition, whether it be Hindu, Sikh, Muslim, Jain or Christian. A disproportionate, though a definite minority, of Indian Americans are Christians from the state of Kerala. The majority of Indian Americans on the other hand are not Christian. I think this explains Jindal, and it explains the overwhelming non-Republican orientation of Indian Americans despite their relatively bourgeois profile. As the Republican party has become more and more identified with the Christian religion many Indian Americans feel themselves alienated. But those Indian Americans, such as Bobby Jindal, who are Christian can find a home in the Republican party. The comment boards of South Asian weblogs like Sepia Mutiny exhibit the cleavage rather well; the non-Christian majority is hostile to Jindal both because of his conservative Roman Catholicism to which he converted, and, because of his right-wing politics which they associate with an exclusive interpretation of Christianity. South Asians more positively inclined toward Jindal are generally libertarians who are willing to ignore or soft-pedal the social conservatism. In general the only extremely enthusiastic boosters of Jindal are Indian Christians, who see in him someone with whom they can identify with.
So I was really interested to see these data in Religion in a Free Market Religious and Non-Religious Americans Who, What, Why, Where:
|% of Asian Ame.||Repub||Dem||Indep.||Other/DK/Ref.|
(the tendency of immigrant Asian Americans to refuse to answer questions about religion and politics obviously shows up in these data)
Note the discernible “allergy” to the Republican party by Asian Americans with “No religion” or “Eastern religions.” Many of the “Other Christians” are likely to be evangelicals, something not surprising if one is aware of the demographics of the Korean American community. To some extent these data are a measure of assimilation; the number of Asian Americans who espouse non-Christian religions skyrocketed between 1990 and 2001 because of immigration during the 1990s. Many of these new immigrants likely feel that the Republicans are hostile to immigration, and have a positive feeling toward Democrats because the Clinton era was their formative time in this country.
But I don’t think this is just a function of recent immigration status. This is because there is a long resident ethno-religious group which exhibits the same pattern of Christian religion correlating with Republican party identification: Jews. Though American Jews are identified as a religion, a substantial number of Jews by birth disaffiliate with the Jewish religion, and a minority convert to other religions, usually Christianity. According to the American Jewish Identity Survey here are the political party orientations of the Jewish subgroups:
|Jews by religion||13||55|
|Jews with no religion||13||41|
|Jews of other religion||40||28|
As you can see, Jews who adhere to a non-Jewish religion, usually Christianity, skew somewhat Republican! I believe that the main reason that Jews vote like Puerto Ricans is due to the fact that they are suspicious of the Christian packaging of the modern Republican party. Asian Americans, “the new Jews,” exhibit the same tendency. Those who are Christian are far more at ease within the Republican party, while those who are not Christian, no matter their cultural conservatism or economic affluence, tend to be Democrats.
To a large extent the Democrats are a coalition of the “Others” or “Outsiders” in American society. A brown-skinned Hindu is doubly Other, by race and religion. In contrast, a brown-skinned Christian has a religious system which allows them to find a comfortable common ground with the modern Republican party. This does not mean that an Indian Christian has to be an evangelical to be accorded some respect. A Catholic or Orthodox Christian would likely not receive the sort of questions, criticisms or “witnessing” that a “pagan” Hindu or Muslim would. A secular white individual also has common ground by virtue of the fact that to a great extent the Republican party is a white party. Even though a secular white individual might not feel at home in the Republican party marinated in religious rhetoric, they don’t look non-Christian, so religion is not something they would immediately have to confront (some evangelicals can behave rather boorishly when querying the religious orientations of brown-skinned people, something I know from personal experience. I don’t care because I don’t believe in a religion, but I can see how a Hindu or Muslim would be very turned off). A Jew who becomes Christian may still be ethnically Jewish, but a great deal of the cultural chasm with mainstream American is removed when a Jew accedes to the dominant religious dispensation. The conservatism of Austrian Jewish families after they converted to Catholicism serves a relatively recently historical analog, but there are plenty of instances of people of Jewish background of Christian religion in the modern American conservative movement (e.g., Marvin Olasky, Jay Sekulow, Bob Novak, Larry Kudlow and Howard Phillips).
America is becoming less white, and less Christian. I can’t but assume that this bodes ill in the medium term for the Republican party, which has operationally become a white Christian party.