New Delhi: The most recent Indian American Attitudes Survey (IAAS) has found that one out of two Indian Americans felt discriminated against in the United States in the past year.
The survey was conducted by researchers affiliated to Johns Hopkins University, University of Pennsylvania and the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, and its report published Wednesday revealed that the most prevalent form of discrimination was found to be on the basis on skin colour.
The survey was conducted between 1 September and 20 September 2020 — in the final year of former US President Donald Trump’s term and right in the middle of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The survey’s findings were based on responses from 1,200 Indian Americans and it was conducted online using YouGov, a market research and data analytics firm. The IAAS is an academic non-partisan survey to measure the political opinions of Indian Americans and persons of Indian origin in the United States.
Besides the fact that one out of two Indian Americans were discriminated against in the past year, the survey also revealed that the term ‘Indian American’ is not widely accepted and is a contested identity. Only four out of 10 respondents thought that term best captured their background.
The ‘Indian American’ community is a significant population in the United States. In 2018, the American Community Survey by the US Census Bureau stated that there were over 4.2 million people of Indian origin living in the US.
Religion also played a key role in the community, the recent survey revealed. It said 40 per cent of the respondents prayed at least once a day, while 27 per cent attended religious services at least once a week.
Eight out of ten respondents had a spouse of Indian origin, and US-born Indian Americans were four times more likely to have a spouse of Indian-origin, the report said.
The survey noted that there has been a “troubling surge in hate crimes targeting Asian Americans” in the wake of the pandemic, though Indian Americans were not among the primary targets “as they were in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks”.
Muslims faced highest amount of religious discrimination
Despite being such a significant population, discrimination was found to be rampant and based on many factors.
The data from the IAAS explained that discrimination on the basis of skin colour was the most common form of bias — with over 30 per cent of the respondents saying they have been at the receiving end of it.
Besides skin colour-based discrimination, many Indian Americans (18 per cent) said they had also experienced discrimination on the basis of their gender or religion.
Muslims reported the highest degree of religious discrimination (39 per cent), followed by Hindus (18 per cent) and Christians (15 pet cent).
Respondents also revealed that they were discriminated against due to their Indian heritage while 5 per cent reported discrimination due to their caste identity. The paper revealed that most of the caste-based discrimination was from within the community.
“Somewhat surprisingly”, the report said, Indian Americans born in the US are much more likely to report discrimination than their counterparts born in India or any other country.
While the survey compiled answers from Indian Americans with different citizenship and residency status — those with green card, H1B visa holders, students etc — 77 per cent of the respondents were US citizens.
Political engagement varied according to one’s citizenship status, the survey revealed.
US-born citizens had the highest level of political engagement, followed by foreign-born US citizens, with non-citizens trailing on this metric.
There was also a high degree of polarisation within the community. Democrats were less comfortable being friends with Republicans. And supporters of the Congress party back in their homeland were not so comfortable being close friends with those of the ruling BJP.