US election: Vietnamese-Americans prefer Trump to Biden — and the president has fans in Vietnam too
- Vietnamese-Americans are more likely than other Asian voters to pick Trump, a new survey has found
- Trump is also popular in Vietnam, where social media fan pages dedicated to him boast tens of thousands of followers
A survey – the results of which were released last month – of nearly 1,600 Asian-Americans by the advocacy groups APIAVote, AAPI Data and Asian Americans Advancing Justice, found that 48 per cent of Vietnamese-Americans favoured Trump, versus 36 per cent who supported Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden.
Other Asian-American voters – including those of Chinese, Indian, Korean, Japanese and Filipino descent – preferred Biden to Trump by a margin of 54 per cent to 30 per cent.
The results echo those of a similar poll in 2018 by APIAVote and AAPI Data in which Vietnamese-Americans were the only Asian-American group with a majority who approved of Trump’s job performance, at 64 per cent.
Pham Do Chi, one of the founding members of the US-based advocacy group Vietnamese Americans for Trump as President Again, or TAPA, whose members include refugees and veterans of the former South Vietnam military, told This Week in Asia there were clear reasons he preferred Trump.
“Asian-American lives have improved significantly under the Trump presidency, with a very strong economy and nearly full employment before the pandemic,” he said.
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Chi, 71, who has a doctorate in economics and was a former economist at the International Monetary Fund, said he thought Trump had the ability to lift the country out of its current recession, and also liked his tough stance on “illegal immigration” and China.
In comparison, Chi said he thought a Biden administration would increase taxes, “notably on the corporate sector, [which] will prolong this recession much further into 2021 and beyond”.
In a letter addressed to Trump in July, TAPA expressed its “100 per cent support” for the current president and his “Make America Great Again” campaign. The letter also spelled out the group’s gratitude to the US for welcoming Vietnamese refugees, and outlined its deep objections towards communism and Marxism “because it impoverished our country and killed our innocent people”.
VIRAL IN VIETNAM
While it is not clear where the page administrators are based, the phone numbers shown in the “About” section of some pages are all local numbers, and the language used in the posts is Vietnamese, although videos posted on the pages are sometimes in English.
On one page with more than 86,000 likes and nearly 290,000 followers, the moderators post various multimedia content, including Trump-focused activities such as his raucous rallies and latest policy moves, as well as strident criticisms of Biden.
A post that has garnered thousands of likes shows an image of Trump and first lady Melania Trump, with the caption: “He has lost friends, but he still has millions of Americans and citizens around the world supporting and staying by his side.”
Trump fandom is also present offline. Luong Minh Trung, 52, stands out at a traditional market in Ho Chi Minh City frequented by those of Khmer origin who now live in Vietnam. His scooter-parking business was named after Trump – making it easy to find because of its unique name, he said. “I only found out about Trump when he became president. He works hard and he cares about his citizens,” Trung said about why he supported Trump, adding that he followed news about the US president via online media.
Many of his countrymen seem to feel the same way, going by a 2017 study conducted by the Pew Research Center, where respondents from most of the 37 countries included in the poll said Trump was not well qualified to be president – with the exception of Vietnamese respondents.
On Wednesday, after a chaotic first debate between Trump and Biden, a Facebook post by a state television channel on the contest between both men generated more than 1,500 likes and hundreds of comments. One Vietnamese netizen with the username Cuong Van commented: “I hope Mr Trump gets elected to destroy China because China is imperious towards other countries but no president has protested against [China] like Mr Trump [does].”
Thinh showed off a button reading, “Vietnamese for Reagan-Bush 84” that he keeps in his home to commemorate how he used to rally support among other Vietnamese-Americans for the two Republicans when they ran for office.
Thinh said he respected Vietnamese-Americans’ choice to be Republicans, even though he now calls himself a former member of the party after he gradually moved to the left of the political spectrum when he left New Orleans and moved to California in the 1980s.
“You have to be able to see when something is wrong morally and politically,” he said. “If you choose Trump, you are willing to accept corruption and destroy democracy and human rights, something that we have been building for a long time in the US.”
Janelle Wong, a senior researcher for AAPI Data and a core faculty member of the University of Maryland’s Asian-American Studies Programme, said Vietnamese-Americans had an affinity for the Republican Party because it had traditionally been associated with strong anti-communist positions.
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“I don‘t believe that Vietnamese are particularly enamoured of Trump, rather a large proportion will vote for the Republican candidate as a result of partisan loyalties, regardless of who that candidate might be,” she said via email.
Wong said that while Vietnamese-Americans might lean Republican overall, they aligned with Democrats when it came to certain policies, as they were generally strong supporters of climate change policies, universal health care and other social safety net programmes.
Among Vietnamese-Americans, like many different groups in the US, younger generations differ substantially from their seniors in views on key social and political issues.
Late last month, Houston-based Apple Broadcasting Television 55.4 channel posted a video on its Facebook page featuring middle-aged looking women and men singing mostly in Vietnamese and some English about their support for Trump.
The first line of their song was “Let us remember in November to vote for President Trump, the person deserving of our vote”. The post garnered thousands of likes and shares.
Lien-Hang T. Nguyen, a professor and historian at Columbia University who specialises in the Vietnam war and US-Southeast Asian relations, said there was “no monolithic Vietnamese-American vote”, as their motivation depended on many factors, including age, socioeconomic status, gender and educational background.
“Without looking at polls and census data, my guess is that the younger generation of Vietnamese-Americans are to the left of the political spectrum [compared with] their parents and grandparents.”
Lan, a former Republican who became a Democrat last year, said his father, who fled the former South Vietnam after the war, was a Trump supporter “because he believes a Trump presidency will be beneficial to the pro-democracy movement in Vietnam more than a Biden presidency”.
“Arguably, the vote will be symbolic at best, because California is solidly in favour of Mr Biden, even if the Vietnamese refugee community is not,” he said.
Colette Brannan, a law student at Yale University who has a Vietnamese-American mother and a white American father, said she chose not to discuss politics with her extended family – some of whom are Trump supporters – to avoid conflicts.
The 24-year-old said she was disheartened to see many older Vietnamese-Americans support Trump, but she was inspired by activist artists at the Diasporic Vietnamese Artists Network and by Viet Thanh Nguyen, a Pulitzer Prize-winning author who has publicly criticised Trump and Vietnamese-Americans who support him.