Updated May 4, 2022 - Politics & Policy

Poll: Distrust of Asian Americans is rising

Percentage of Americans who say they agree Asian Americans are ... 
Data: LAAUNCH; Chart: Simran Parwani/Axios

Americans continue to wrongly blame people of Asian descent for the coronavirus, and a greater percentage are harboring distrust of their loyalties, according to a new report out this morning.

Why it matters: Asian Americans, who make up 7% of the U.S. population, feel increasingly isolated and discriminated against amid sustained anti-Asian violence and increasing anti-China political rhetoric.

State of play: 21% of U.S. adults now say Asian Americans are at least partly responsible for COVID — up from 11% in 2021.

  • That's according to a study from the nonprofit Leading Asian Americans to Unite for Change (LAAUNCH) and The Asian American Foundation (TAAF).
  • 33% said they believe "Asian Americans are more loyal to their country of origin than to the United States"— up from 20% last year.
  • Among Asian American respondents, only 29% said they "completely agree" that they feel they belong and are accepted in the U.S., which was the lowest of all racial groups.
  • Meanwhile, 71% say they are discriminated against in the U.S. today.

What they’re saying: The increase in distrust of Asian Americans is in part driven by greater use of anti-China rhetoric on both sides of the aisle, TAAF CEO and LAAUNCH co-founder Norman Chen said.

  • "On the surface, we thought it was COVID and Trump. Deeper down we know it's related to the model minority myth and perpetual foreigner stereotypes. But even deeper, it really [shows] the embedded systemic racism in this country against Asian Americans."
  • "From the Chinese Exclusion Act of the 1800s to the internment camps of the 1940s to the murder of Vincent Chin in the 80s, this has always been a part of the fabric of the United States," Eric Toda, who serves on the LAAUNCH board and TAAF advisory council, told Axios Today.

Flashback: The pandemic drove a sustained surge in anti-Asian hate crimes as people scapegoated Asian Americans for COVID, calling it the "China virus" and "kung flu."

  • Anti-Asian hate crimes jumped in major U.S. cities in 2021, rising by 567% in San Francisco and 361% in New York City, according to those cities' police departments.
  • Some of the most brutal acts of violence were driven by COVID-related hate, such as in Texas, where a man stabbed a Burmese American family, including their 2- and 6-year-old children, in March 2020 because he believed they were Chinese and responsible for the pandemic.

Between the lines: The results of today's new study are especially troubling in light of the nationwide activism and awareness campaigns about anti-Asian hate.

  • Despite increased attention to the problem, Americans are more likely to scapegoat people of Asian descent than before.
  • While the majority of respondents in the study recognized anti-Asian violence is worsening, nearly one-third remain unaware of the crisis, according to the study.

The bottom line: "Politicians need to be very careful ... with all this bashing of China because it directly influences how people view and treat Asian Americans in the U.S.," Chen said.

Methodology: The 2022 survey was conducted with a nationally representative sample of 5,113 adults across the U.S. from Feb. 10-28, 2022. It has a margin of error of 1.4% at the 95% confidence level. The 2021 data is from a survey of 2,766 U.S. adults conducted March 29-April 14, 2021 within a margin of error of 1.9% at the 95% confidence level.

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