Gene Expression

i-a997e30122e2e9ff2d3ea5be3e045d42-200px-Bobby_Jindal,_official_109th_Congressional_photo.jpgObviously the most prominent Indian American politician today is Bobby Jindal, the governor of Louisiana. But Jindal is not very representative of Indian Americans:

…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.
Catholic 20 21 35 35 8
Other Christian 23 35 38 25 2
Eastern Religions 22 6 37 33 23
None 22 13 25 50 12
Total 87 20 33 36 11

(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:

  Repub Dem
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.

Comments

  1. #1 yogi-one
    October 25, 2008

    I just keep hoping that the wisdom the American Founding Fathers showed by separating church and state wins out eventually. Mixing them degrades the quality of both.

    Good leaders are good leaders regardless of their religion. And we have seen plenty of corrupt people in leadership positions who broadcast their religion to everyone in an attempt to use it to gain political power.

    The race for the political office should never be reduced to a referendum on which religion the candidates identify with. It leads to bad government, and at worst can institutionalize prejudice, and even encourage religious hatred and violence.

    Individuals can be ethical, intelligent, and upstanding community leaders regardless of their religion, and they can be corrupt cronies regardless of their religion.

    Elections should be a referendum on their ability to lead in an ethical and intelligent fashion, not a referendum on either their skin color or religion.

  2. #2 suitablegirl
    October 25, 2008

    Fascinating (and timely) post, Razib.

  3. #3 brent
    October 25, 2008

    I’d always thought the primary reason most Asian-Americans are Democrats is the recency and geography of the immigration. Most Asians have arrived in big cities dominated by Democrats.

    As the decades go by and Asians diffuse more broadly through the country I’d expect them to mirror broader national trends.

    A couple friends come to mind, both Chinese-Americans from the same state, Virginia. Both had immigrant parents. But one grew up in the upscale, secular Northern Virgina close-in suburbs (his dad worked in DC’s China town.) He grew up to be super liberal, very political. He hates Bush and loves Obama.

    The other grew up in the very Christian Naval port area of Virginia Beach. He grew up to be a moderately religious, very pro-military, moderate Repub. He doesn’t care much about politics, except when somebody bashes the military. Which many rich Dems do frequently, if unconsciously.

    Both grew up mainly around white people and have mainly white friends outside of family and cousins. It seems likely their political attitudes result more from the communities they were raised in than their ethnicity.

    As to how Republicans will react to the changing demographics … I don’t think it will be that hard. I predict many more conservative Christian Mex-American Republican candidates in the near future. I don’t see evidence that the Mexican vote or Asian vote has hardened into a perpetual Democratic voting bloc like the black vote has.

  4. #4 TGGP
    October 25, 2008

    How much more averse to the GOP are Indian Hindus compared to agnostic/atheist whites?

    Lawrence Auster is another conservative convert and Sailer is at least as Jewish as Obama is black, but like Tom Stoppard he did not discover his Jewish ancestry immediately.

  5. #5 jomega
    October 25, 2008

    This is interesting. My own experience has been that, while Hidnus tend to be pretty liberal, Bhuddists who have emigrated to this country are often lean more towards the GOP. They are often quite quite culturally conservative, and also feel that the percieved pro-business slant of the Repubs better reflects their interests. Additionally, there seem to be many, particularly Vietnamese and some older Chinese immigrants, whose families fled communism and feel that the Democrats have failed to take a strong enough stand against it. On the other hand native Bhuddists, especially converts of european descent, are generally much more liberal in their outlook.

  6. #6 John Emerson
    October 25, 2008

    Ashwin Madia is about an even chance in Minnesota. This would give Minnesota a black Muslim and a Hindu in Congress.

  7. #7 John Emerson
    October 25, 2008

    Suspicious of the Christian packaging of the modern Republican party…..

    This is too mild. There’s a strong nativist, racist streak in the Republican Party, and the particular form of Christianity catered to by Republicans is extreme. A lot of the discussions of religion in politics assumes that less fanatical, less anti-intellectual Christians are less Christian. I’d guess that a fair proportion of moderate Christians have left the Republican Party for the same reason.

  8. #8 Ron Guhname
    October 25, 2008

    According the GSS, 62% of Christians who voted for Bush in 2004 were moderate or liberal Christians. We’ll have to wait and see how this year turns out.

    http://inductivist.blogspot.com/2008/10/general-social-survey-asked-christians.html

  9. #9 Scott Carter
    October 26, 2008

    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.

    Are Jews actually that much more likely to vote Republican than a Gentile white pool with a similar profile of urbanization, income, education, etc.?

    ObAnecdotal data -
    I’m atheist of Southern Baptist descent, married to an Ashkenazi of 3-4 generations secular descent. My observation among my inlaws and their friends is that residence in the outer suburbs/exurbs is the strongest predictor of voting Rep (rather than say secular/Reform/Conservative orientation). I have no theory about the direction of causality.

  10. #10 razib
    October 26, 2008

    As the decades go by and Asians diffuse more broadly through the country I’d expect them to mirror broader national trends.

    asians have become *more* democratic since ’92. they voted for bush in ’92, but have been trending more democratic. your model sounds plausible, but i’m not convinced.

    Are Jews actually that much more likely to vote Republican than a Gentile white pool with a similar profile of urbanization, income, education, etc.?

    i don’t know. let me look into it.

  11. #11 as
    October 26, 2008

    One explanation I’ve heard for why Asians voted Republican in 1992 is the significant anti-Asian component of the LA riots.

    Is this plausible?

  12. #12 as
    October 26, 2008

    Yes, Indians skew highly left.

    What about the entrepreneur v. professional split?

    Most of the Indian Republicans I’ve known, including in my own family, are businessman.

  13. #13 Tom Bri
    October 26, 2008

    Said it before, but please remember that it wasn’t so long ago that Christians were strongly attracted to the Democrat social justice agenda. It is the Dems who have run away from Christians.

  14. #14 rec1man
    October 26, 2008

    I think razib got it right

    Most Hindu Americans are upper castes, and in India they vote
    for BJP, which is analogous to Republicans,
    Whereas the pro-affirmative action, weak on terror,
    Democrats resemble the bad Congress party they escaped from

    The only reason most Hindu Americans vote for
    Democrats is the strong ties the Republicans have to evangelical missionaries

    Most Hindu Americans will prefer to vote for a nominal xtian white , than for an Indian origin convert like Bobby Jindal

    In addition, Swati Dandekar, Dem, Iowa and Satveer Chaudhury
    Dem Minnesota, have been attacked for being hindus by their
    evangelical republican opponents

  15. #15 razib
    October 26, 2008

    Most Hindu Americans are upper castes, and in India they vote for BJP, which is analogous to Republicans,

    there’s a interaction effect with region for this. IOW, this is like saying rich americans vote for republicans. generally true, but the effect size of wealth varies a lot by region. similarly, the generalization is true for the cow belt and for south india, but less so for a place like west bengal.

  16. #16 razib
    October 26, 2008

    Said it before, but please remember that it wasn’t so long ago that Christians were strongly attracted to the Democrat social justice agenda. It is the Dems who have run away from Christians.

    the majority of the democratic electorate is still christian. and christians are well represented on all sides of political issues until recently because until recently 90-95% of americans were identified christians (recently = until the last generation). so i don’t think you’re really saying anything if you speak so generally (e.g., it is true the white evangelicals have shifted to the republicans from the democrats…but, this also needs to be explored because the one party democratic regime of the 1930s-1960s was actually several parties, with a large dixiecrat faction which often allied with republicans).

  17. #17 razib
    October 26, 2008

    What about the entrepreneur v. professional split?

    Most of the Indian Republicans I’ve known, including in my own family, are businessman.

    1) i am sure many indian republicans are businessman.

    2) but indians are still mostly democrats

    3) jews are also well represented in the capital class, but they still vote dem overall

  18. #18 razib
    October 26, 2008

    One explanation I’ve heard for why Asians voted Republican in 1992 is the significant anti-Asian component of the LA riots.

    sounds plausible.

  19. #19 rec1man
    October 26, 2008

    Razib,
    most Hindu Americans are not bengalis
    My guess is less than 5% of Hindu americans are
    bengalis

    20% are punjabis
    20% are south Indians

    40% are gujuratis,

    and 20% for the rest
    Very few hindu bengalis
    since the commies screwed up education
    in west bengal

    The common perceived wisdom is that if Bobby Jindal had not
    converted to xtianity, he would not have risen in
    the republican party, whereas, to rise in the Democratic
    party, conversion is not required

    The result is that there are several hindu legislators
    in the Democratic party and none in the republican party

  20. #20 razib
    October 26, 2008

    My guess is less than 5% of Hindu americans are
    bengalis

    this is probably true, but i think the rest of your guesses are probably wrong. the usual quotes i see are ~50% gujarati, 25% punjabi, and 25% “other.” of your numbers i’m pretty sure that 20% “south indian” is probably an overestimate if you think the 4 southern states = south indian.

    as for jindal, again, there is a region interaction effect here. the assertion is correct in most of america. there’s no way a hindu would be able to get the republican nomination in a southern state for governor, but, there’s no way that a hindu would ever win a big for governor in a southern state. but this probably isn’t as much of an issue in massachusetts or california, where a non-christian republican might be able to cobble together a coalition of libertarians and moderates to win the primary, and then be well positioned in the general election.

  21. #21 rec1man
    October 26, 2008

    GOP smear attempts on hindu candidates

    11/7/02 Associated Press: “Candidate Who Questioned Opponent’s Ethnicity Sent Packing,”
    Swati Dandekar, a Democrat, defeated Karen Balderston for the House District 36 seat by a margin of 57-43 percent, with 100 precincts reporting.
    In a Sept. 29 e-mail to a conservative political action committee, Balderston questioned whether Dandekar, an immigrant from India, was “adequately prepared to represent Midwest values and core beliefs.”
    Dandekar, who has lived in Iowa for 30 years, celebrated her victory at a Marion art gallery. She said she didn’t know if the e-mail controversy had influenced voters.
    “I think people really looked at the issues, they liked my platform. I ran, along with my campaign committee, a good and positive campaign, based on making Iowa a better place to live,” Dandekar said.
    GOP leaders had called Balderston’s remarks inappropriate, withdrew financial support for her campaign and canceled mailings on her behalf a week before Election Day.

    11/4/02 Asian-American Village by S.D. Ikeda: “Playing the Hate-Card in the Midterm Elections: Racial attacks in campaigns aren’t just politically effective, but politically correct”: September 2002: In an e-mail to a conservative P.A.C., GOP Iowa State House candidate Karen Balderston challenges India-born Democrat Swati Dandekar’s ability to represent Iowans’ “Midwest values and core beliefs, let alone understand and appreciate the constitutional rights guaranteed to us in writing by our Founding Fathers? (not her Founding Fathers).” The unrepentant Balderston calls the leak to Gazette of Cedar Rapids a “dirty trick” by Democrats, and further asserts that “repressionist views” presumed to stem from Dandekar’s “[caste in India], the most repressive form of discrimination on the planet,” make the 30-year Iowa resident unable to represent House District 36′s interests.

    Concession E-Mail To Hindu Sen.: ‘Know Jesus’
    by Mary Tan

    (WCCO) Sen. Satveer Chaudhary, a practicing Hindu, was re-elected in District 50 last week on the Democratic ticket, netting 63 percent of the vote. But rather than placing a call to concede the race, his Republican opponent Rae Hart Anderson instead offered him an e-mail concession that he said read like an attempt to convert his religious beliefs.

    “To get a sermon is definitely a surprise,” said Chaudhary.

    In her e-mail, Anderson congratulated the senator first, but then went on to add, “It is my sincere wish that you’ll get to know Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.”

    The message continued, “God waits to be gracious to each person that knows they need to be forgiven. Do you? I think you do. ”

    “When I read it I just shook my head,” said Chaudhary. “This just sums up the type of campaign voters were rejecting.”

    Anderson’s car was still filled with her campaign signs. WCCO-TV tried to contact Anderson Thursday, even coming out to her Shoreview, Minn. home, but she never returned our calls. Later in the afternoon, Anderson’s former campaign manager, Barbara Black, told us Anderson wrote the e-mail because “Chaudhary is not Christian, and he needs to find his soul.”

    Despite her e-mail, the Senator said he has faith in his constituents, and the tenor of Anderson’s e-mail only confirms his belief in their will.

    “I know I’m going to be attacked. If that’s all they got, my ethnicity, I must be doing OK for the voters,” he said.

  22. #22 John Emerson
    October 26, 2008

    It wasn’t so long ago that Christians were strongly attracted to the Democrat social justice agenda. It is the Dems who have run away from Christians.

    Socially conservative social-justice Christians (most often Catholics) have a difficult choice. Neither party completely works for them. They often still remain Democrats.

    There are various ways of analyzing the Christian vote. One dimension I haven’t seen emphasized much is “prosperity theology” vs. “social justice”. The former believes that wealth is from God, and poverty is from God, and people should accept their lot. The latter believes that the better off have an obligation to help the worse-off, who might just be unlucky and might even be admirable.

    The Christian vote is 70% – 80% of the vote, and it can be dissected many ways: nominal / devout;
    fundamentalist / mainline;
    liberal / moderate / conservative;
    liturgical / non-liturgical;
    charismatic / everyone else;
    New Church / traditional church;
    socially-conservative / not socially conservative;
    orthodox (Chalcedonian, Trinitarian) / unorthodox; communitarian / individualist;
    politicized / non-politicized / anti-political (e.g. Amish).

    I’m just adding one more dimension. Generalizations in this area tend to be very crude.

  23. #23 keypusher
    October 28, 2008

    I think the prominence of Christianity in politics (especially Republican politics) is the product of declining cultural dominance. In the 1920s Jewish students in New York protested because they had to sing Christmas hymns in class! The cultural war goes on, but the Christians have retreated a thousand miles since then.

    Of course for Christians to be identified with Republicans is bad for Christians and Republicans alike, as several posters have already pointed out. But it was probably inevitable that a faith feeling itself under siege would go into party politics.

  24. #24 rec1man
    October 28, 2008

    keypusher wrote – In the 1920s Jewish students in New York protested because they had to sing Christmas hymns in class!

    Since, hinduism in its popular form is polytheist,
    adding jesus to the mix of a million other gods does not bother hindus, unlike jews who have a theological problem
    Millions of hindus over the last 150 years have attended
    catholic schools and sung christmas carols, and the daily prayer, without any fuss

    Hindus in the US would rather send their kids to Catholic or mainstream Protestant schools than send their kids to a black public school, and many in fact do, and the exposure to xtianity does not bother them

    What bothers them is aggressive evangelism of the type done by Pentacostals and baptists and mormons
    who form the base of the republican party

    Last year, A hindu chaplain Rajan Zed gave a prayer in the senate and some Xtian fundamentalists interrupted it
    When hindu organisations asked the senators to condemn the vandalism, all the democratic senators condemned it immediately, but no republican senator condemned it, since it would alienate their base

    Most of the protestant missionaries in India are funded by republican party supporters, such as baptists and pentacostals and they distribute tracts attacking upper caste hindus, so upper caste hindus who are most of the hindu immigrants to the US, have a deep suspicion of the republican party as the party of the missionaries

    Catholic missionaries in India work more low key
    whereas the Protestants have a large convert quota to meet urgently and are a lot more abrasive

    Several western funded baptist tribes in north east India are running separatist / terrorist movements for the last 60 years
    and in those regions, hindus have been ethnic cleansed

    Several baptist and pentacostal republican congressmen are actively involved in trying to convert hindus in India and this alienates hindu americans from the republicans

    Every time a hindu american tries to build a temple,
    they face opposition from local baptist and pentacostal churches ( republican base ) in the form of zoning ordinances

    IMHO, it is impossible for a hindu american to get the republican nomination from a winnable or even competitive seat.
    It is theoretically possible for a hindu american to get the republican nomination in a heavily democratic non-winnable seat

    The result is there are several dozen hindu american legislators in the democratic party and none in the republican party

  25. #25 rec1man
    October 29, 2008

    Hindus in the UK, about 40% vote Tory,
    which is essentially the same as Republicans, except for
    the missionary angle

  26. #26 Danny
    October 29, 2008

    Most Hindu Americans are upper castes, and in India they vote for BJP, which is analogous to Republicans,
    Whereas the pro-affirmative action, weak on terror,
    Democrats resemble the bad Congress party they escaped from

    I’m guessing that in India, Christians don’t vote for the BJP given that party’s identification with Anti-Christian violence.

    Integral Nationalism doesn’t appeal to those who are not integral to the nation.

    Hindus in the UK, about 40% vote Tory

    I think the numbers are similar for Jews. Of course, both groups are rather middle-class, so it’s possible that they are less Tory than the Native English of the same socio-economic level.

  27. #27 razib
    October 29, 2008

    I’m guessing that in India, Christians don’t vote for the BJP given that party’s identification with Anti-Christian violence.

    there are very few christians in the areas where the BJP is a presence in any case. the BJP is to a great extent a regional party of the north-center “cow belt.” most chrisitans are in south india (the extreme northeast is mostly christian in particular locales, but the population is small enough that they’re still marginal).

  28. #28 rec1man
    October 30, 2008

    Anti-Upper caste pamphlets put out by western evangelical missionariea

    Wiki

    Haqeaqat

    Haqeeqat (हक़ीक़त, meaning reality) is the Hindi translation of a controversial book by a Kerala-based Christian evangelist M.G. Mathew. It was translated by Daniel Nathaniel associated with Emmanuel Mission International (EMI).The book is widely regarded as an anti-Hindu book [1][2][3]

    The Government of Rajasthan received complaints about the book . After examining the contents of the controversial book, the government decided to ban it, as it felt that it may incite communal violence.

    EMI’s founder, Archbishop M.A. Thomas and his son, the Rev. Dr. Samuel Thomas, went in hiding as the police searched for them

    Kanchan Gupta, quotes the particularly offensive parts of the book in The Pioneer:

    “How could Arya Hindus bring Aryanisation on this earth. To be Arya, one has to be born of an Arya womb… If Arya Hindus want to bring Aryanisation then they must lend or rent out all Arya wombs to non-Aryans. Non-Aryans should be given Brahmin women so that children are born from Brahmin womb” (Page 182-183).

    ( Arya in this context refers to upper caste hindus )

  29. #29 rec1man
    October 31, 2008

    Faith based funding of Republicans funds World Vision, etc,
    who in turn use the money to convert hindus in India

    In the recent Orissa violence, it is alleged that Radhakanta Nayak, a key World Vision leader, ordered the assassination
    of Swami Laxmananada

  30. #30 Tod
    October 31, 2008

    rec1man’s comments are dangerous stuff for you to be giving GNXP’s imprateur.

  31. #31 razib
    October 31, 2008

    hey, i haven’t been reading this thread. and yeah, can we lay off “allegations.” it’s alleged that the queen is my mother (i just made up that allegation btw).

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