Survey: 1 in 4 in US Have Asian-American Bias

A national survey released today found a quarter of Americans have a negative bias toward Chinese-Americans and Asian-Americans in what the study's sponsor called a "wake-up call" to everyone who thinks Asian-Americans do not suffer discrimination.

The survey found more Americans were uncomfortable voting for an Asian-American for president (24 percent of those surveyed) than for a candidate who was African-American (15 percent), a woman (14 percent) or Jewish (11 percent).

Nearly one half, or 46 percent, of those surveyed felt that with Chinese-Americans "passing secrets to the Chinese government is a problem," according to the survey, sponsored by the Committee of 100, a group of prominent Chinese-Americans.

Thirty-two percent felt Chinese-Americans were more loyal to China than the United States, it said, and 24 percent said they would not approve of intermarriage with an Asian-American.

Many Negative Stereotypes

Research and marketing firm Yankelovich Partners, which conducted the study, determined that overall 25 percent of those surveyed had very negative attitudes toward Chinese-Americans.

"We always knew there was an element of some negative bias … but we were startled by the results, that the numbers were as high as they were," said Henry Tang, chairman of the Committee of 100.

"This has provided conditions for somewhat of a wake-up call for all of us Americans of Asian heritage. The oft-quoted model minority may be model, but it still has many problems," he told a news conference to release the survey results.

In the Aftermath of Wen Ho Lee

The committee, formed in 1989 to address the concerns of Americans of Chinese and Asian heritage and improve Sino-American relations, is holding its annual conference in Washington, D.C., to discuss the survey and strains in U.S.-China ties.

It commissioned the survey after recent incidents including the jailing of Taiwan-born nuclear scientist Wen Ho Lee.

Lee was arrested in December 1999 on 59 counts of mishandling classified nuclear data. He spent nine months in solitary confinement and was released with an apology from a federal judge who blasted the U.S. government for "embarrassing our entire nation" with spying allegations that were never proved.

Lee pleaded guilty to one count of downloading nuclear weapons design secrets to a nonsecure computer. The government dropped the remaining charges.

Not All Negative

Not all the reactions were negative. The survey showed 91 percent of Americans believe Chinese-Americans had strong family values, 77 percent said they were honest business people and 67 percent said they placed a high value on education.

The Jewish civil rights group, the Anti-Defamation League, collaborated in the survey and an accompanying focus group study by the Marttila Communications Group.

"There is a very volatile potential danger because the anti-Chinese-American, Asian-American attitudes has a mixture of racial and political presence. And one fuels the other," said ADL national director Abraham Foxman.

That many people think Chinese-Americans are more loyal to China than to America is "a very dangerous element because incidents way beyond our control can fuel, legitimize and give pseudo-rationale to prejudices," he said.

Survey Taken Before Spy Plane Crisis

The survey was conducted in the first two weeks of March, before U.S.-China relations soured over a U.S. surveillance plane that collided with a Chinese fighter and landed on Hainan Island earlier this month. The 24-member crew was detained for 11 days and China still holds the plane.

The companies that conducted the survey said the numbers would likely not have changed significantly, however. In fact, it was advantageous that the survey was done before the crisis to offer a better look at enduring attitudes, they said.

The survey of 1,216 Americans at least 18 years old, who were telephoned randomly across the country, found many of the attitudes toward Chinese-Americans were applied to Asian-Americans generally because most non-Asian-Americans did not differentiate between the two.

To test that theory, the survey asked 1,002 respondents questions about Chinese-Americans and the other 214 the same questions about Asian-Americans, and the results were "nearly identical," the statement said.

The margin of error on the 1,002 sample is plus or minus 3.1 percent.