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India Currents gave me a voice in days I was very lost. Having my articles selected for publishing was very validating – Shailaja Dixit, Executive Director, Narika, Fremont

Nikki Haley makes waves

Fewer than two months into 2023 and the 2024 presidential election is already making more waves. This week, former South Carolina governor and U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley announced she is running for the Republican presidential nomination.

As The Washington Post noted if successful, Haley “would become the first woman and first Asian American to lead the GOP ticket.” She previously made history as the first female Asian American governor (Louisiana’s Bobby Jindal was the first Indian American governor), and during the Trump administration, Haley became the first Indian American in a presidential Cabinet.

Who is Nikki Haley?

Haley, 51, was born as Nimrata Nikki Randhawa to Punjabi Sikh parents in South Carolina. “I was the proud daughter of Indian immigrants — not Black, not white. I was different,” Haley said in her campaign launch video this week.

But despite the historic nature of Haley’s run, will South Asian Americans rally behind her? In her campaign video, Haley is already positioning herself with current conservative talking points in the culture wars. She also opposes abortion rights, which runs counter to the views of most Asian Americans as a whole.

The South Asian American Voter

Most South Asian Americans are generally regarded as politically left and largely voted for Democratic presidential candidates in 2016 and 2020, according to AAPI Data:

Political Participation (Source: AAPI DATA)

Most Americans of Indian descent, in particular, identify as leaning Democrat or Independent/no party compared to associating with the Republican Party:

A chart showing data on votes by ethnicity and political party
AAPI Vote (APIA Vote (Source/ 2022 Asian American Voter Survey) AAPI DATA

If President Joe Biden runs again, most Indian Americans polled have a favorable view of him:

A graph showing voter impressions of President Biden
Voter impression for President Biden (Source/ 2022 Asian American Voter Survey) AAPI DATA

Whereas, Indian Americans polled said they generally don’t like Donald Trump, Haley’s former White House boss who is also running for the 2024 nomination:

Voter impression of Donald Trump (source/ 2022 Asian American Voter Survey) AAPI DATA

But while the data reveals a snapshot of attitudes and trends, it’s hard to know what is exactly in store for 2024 and how South Asian Americans will end up voting.

In the meantime, check out 55 interesting facts about Haley on POLITICO, including how she navigated familial pressures around her marriage and why she converted to Christianity. “I’m Brown!” she once declared to a childhood classmate who asked if she was white or Black.

This article originally published on the Red, White and Brown newsletter, which facilitates conversations about culture and politics through the lens of South Asian American race and identity.

Some other reads

Thanks for joining the conversation,
Vignesh Ramachandran (@VigneshR on Twitter)
Co-founder of Red, White and Brown Media

Vignesh Ramachandran

Vignesh Ramachandran

Freelance journalist covering race, culture and politics from a South Asian American lens. Co-founder of Red, White and Brown Media.