Posted on April 29, 2020

Over 30 Percent of Americans Have Witnessed COVID-19 Bias Against Asians, Poll Says

Alex Ellerbeck, NBC News, April 28, 2020

More than 30 percent of Americans have witnessed someone blaming Asian people for the coronavirus pandemic, according to a new Ipsos survey conducted for the Center for Public Integrity.

Sixty percent of Asian Americans, who made up about 6 percent of the survey’s respondents, told Ipsos they’ve seen the same behavior.

The poll, released Tuesday, comes as advocacy groups and researchers report an alarming rise in anti-Asian discrimination. Stop AAPI Hate, an effort to track these cases, reported about 1,500 instances of harassment against Asian Americans in a one-month period since mid-March.

“We’re already seeing an increase in physical assaults, refusal of service and vandalism,” said Cynthia Choi, co-executive director of Chinese for Affirmative Action, a San Francisco-based civil rights organization helping to run the tracking effort, “despite the fact that 95 percent of Americans are sheltering in place.”

Choi worries about what will happen when shelter-in-place orders are lifted and more people interact on subways, in workplaces and elsewhere. “We are preparing for worst-case scenarios,” she said.

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While a narrow majority of poll respondents described the virus primarily as a natural disaster, 44 percent said specific people or organizations were responsible. Of those respondents, nearly two-thirds mentioned China or Chinese people.

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The poll found a partisan divide. Sixty percent of Republicans said the virus was caused by specific people or groups, almost double the share of Democrats who said that.

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President Donald Trump and other Republican politicians have repeatedly referred to COVID-19 as the “Chinese virus.”

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In open-ended responses to the poll, many people simply blamed “China,” leaving it unclear whether the blame was leveled at the Chinese government or at Chinese and Asian people more broadly.

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Charissa Cheah, a professor of psychology at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, is researching anti-Asian bias during the pandemic. She said she is not sure that people make a clear distinction between criticism of Chinese leaders and criticism of people with Asian ancestry.

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Anti-Asian bias amid the virus’ spread plays into a long history of racism in the United States that has associated immigrant groups with disease, Cheah said. But while some immigrant groups, such as those from European countries, were later assimilated into an identity as white Americans, people with Asian ancestry keep finding their status as Americans questioned.

“They fall very quickly from model minority to yellow peril,” she said. “Asian Americans are considered perpetual foreigners. It doesn’t matter how many generations you’ve been here. You’re always asked, ‘Where do you come from?'”

Community spread within the U.S. dwarfs the risk of exposure from outside travel. But the Ipsos/Center for Public Integrity poll results suggest that a minority of people see Asian Americans as disease risks.

One out of 4 people said they would be concerned about coming into close contact with someone of Asian ancestry in public, a share that jumped to 46 percent if the person was not wearing a face covering or other protective gear. {snip}

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The federal government has done little to combat a rise in hate crimes during the pandemic. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention swiftly launched a team to combat discrimination during the outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome in 2003, but the agency has announced no such measures for COVID-19. {snip}

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