Before you read, it should be noted that: This was, by no stretch of the imagination, a scientific endeavor. The image of Indian opinion that this piece paints is representative only of those few I spoke to in my family, not the common views in India as a whole. This is also not meant to influence your vote.
For better or worse, the United States doubtlessly holds an important position in the eyes of the world. The actions of our government have tangible effects on millions, if not billions of lives. Here’s a glimpse of Indian perspectives on the 2016 presidential election. Despite the status of the United States as a global superpower, the election does not seem to be a major factor in the daily lives of my community, though it has frequently been a major part of news coverage from international networks such as the BBC. I know through anecdotal stories that other fellows’ host families have expressed the full range of emotions toward the race: pity, confusion, anger, nervousness, and apathy. My family has watched much coverage of the campaigns, and particularly the debates.
Of the two main candidates, my family is far more familiar with Hillary Clinton. While both have spent many years in the public eye, Hillary has done so in a far more international context. They know her from her time as First Lady, and closely associate her with Bill Clinton’s legacy. They are also familiar with her service as Secretary of State. Only some know anything of consequence about Donald Trump, though his name is familiar to my host father, who recognizes it from the Trump Towers in Pune. He works in real-estate and has been acutely aware of Trump’s business activity throughout the country. They haven’t heard of any of the third-party nominees.
They seem to greatly prefer Clinton to Trump. However, absolutely not many of their reasons are policy-related. Being that they primarily got information from debate coverage, their image of Trump is ill-tempered and ill-prepared, and simply “mean”. My host father believes him to be in the race for personal gain, not the good of the country. My host brother says that Hillary Clinton has the better temperament, and added that he himself “believe[s] in equality”.
What I found particularly interesting is that regardless of party preference and potentially ideology, support for individuals tends to remain constant. For example, in Indian politics, my brother prefers the Bharatiya Janata Party (Indian People’s Party), the ruling right-wing Hindu nationalist party. My dad, on the other hand, casts his ballot for the Indian National Congress, a center-left social democratic party. Yet both look to the BJP-elected prime minister Narendra Modi with reverence and pride. They bring him up in all political conversations. They also, as I’ve already stated, support Hillary Clinton.
It seems that, at least for my family, their voting records are almost entirely candidate-centric. They place respectable people who they perceive to do well for them above their own parties and ideologies. One reason that my brother prefers the BJP over INC is that the former was able to, in his eyes, carry out meaningful change much quicker that the latter ever did. So there does seem to be a pattern of people eschewing their political ideas in favor of breaking through the corruption and bureaucracy to just get something done.