U.S. public has negative feelings for Chinese, says poll

Los Angeles Times

One in four Americans hold “very negative attitudes” toward Americans of Chinese ancestry, and one-third question their loyalty to the United States, according to a nationwide poll scheduled for release Wednesday in Washington.

The survey of the public attitude toward Chinese-Americans also found that while an overwhelming majority of Americans admire Chinese-Americans for their devotion to family and emphasis on education and diligence, nearly a quarter would not approve of intermarriage with a Chinese-American.

Twenty-three percent of Americans said they are uncomfortable with the idea of voting for an Asian-American candidate for president, compared with 15 percent uncomfortable with voting for a black candidate, 14 percent for a woman candidate and 11 percent for a Jewish contender.

One-third (34 percent) said Chinese-Americans have too much influence in the U.S. technology sector. Virtually the same proportion (32 percent) said Chinese-Americans are more loyal to mainland China than to the United States.

The poll findings, coming at a time of renewed tension between the U.S. and Chinese governments, disheartened experts who have long believed that the American public’s perception of Chinese-Americans and other Asian-Americans is disproportionately affected by the tone of diplomatic relations. These experts felt some of the responses illustrated that Americans are woefully ignorant about Asian-Americans, even in California, where 40 percent of the nation’s Asian-Americans live.

“We find these findings startling,” said Henry S. Tang , chairman of the Committee of 100, a Chinese-American leadership organization, which sponsored the telephone survey of 1,216 Americans.

The group’s better-known members include cellist Yo-Yo Ma and architect I.M. Pei.”It makes you wonder how not only Chinese-Americans but Asian-Americans can shake this legacy of somehow being less than 100 percent Americans,” said political scientist Don T. Nakanishi, director of the Asian American Studies Center at the University of California, Los Angeles.

Wednesday’s survey disclosure at the National Press Club was timed to coincide with the committee’s 10th annual conference this week, during which several panels will discuss the implications of the poll and formulate programs to promote better understanding and the rights of Asian-Americans.

The telephone survey, conducted March 1-14 by Yankelovich Partners in consultation with the Anti-Defamation League and the Martila Communications Group, has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3.1 percentage points.

The main thrust of the study was to explore the public’s attitudes toward Chinese-Americans. In addition, the survey tried find out whether attitudes toward Chinese-Americans were largely the same or different from those toward Asian-Americans in general. To that end, 1,002 respondents were asked their opinions about stereotypes of Chinese-Americans, and 214 were asked about identically worded stereotypes of Asian-Americans, according to the study. The answers were nearly identical, suggesting that prejudice against Chinese-Americans is a subset of broader prejudices against Asian-Americans.

“What’s disheartening about all of this is these negative views will continue because they are so tied to the things that really relate to our future — high technology, trade, U.S.-China relations,” political Nakanishi said.