Majority of US Population Lumps Asian Americans Together

June 16, 2009

This article is included in these additional categories:

Analytics, Automated & MarTech | Asia-Pacific | Youth & Gen X

Though the US population in general has a more favorable perception of Asian Americans than it did eight years ago, major differences still exist in the perceptions of the general population and the perceptions of Asian Americans, according to (pdf) research commissioned by the Committee of 100 (C-100).

The report (pdf), which draws on findings from two studies – one of the general population and one of a smaller sample of Chinese Americans – revealed that at least 28% of the general population rarely or never interacts with Asian Americans, and the majority of the general population cannot make meaningful distinctions between Chinese Americans and Asian Americans.

Additional research findings:

  • Both the general population and Chinese Americans have a generally high favorability toward all races, but Chinese Americans are slightly less favorable toward other races when compared with the general population:


  • The general population believes Asian Americans fit into mainstream US culture more than Chinese Americans believe they do.
  • A substantial majority of the general population believe there are far more Asians in the US than in reality: 74% percent say Asians constitute more than 8% of the US population, with 40% saying Asians are 16% or more of all Americans; only 1% of respondents say they are not sure. (According to C-100, Asian Americans actually comprise about 5% of the US population.)
  • A majority of the general population (51%) incorrectly believe less than 25% Asians in the US were born in the country. The actual percentage of native-born Asian Americans is about 30%, C-100 said.
  • 45% of the general population believes that Asian Americans are more loyal to their countries of ancestry than to the US, up from 37% in a similar 2001 survey. In contrast, three of four of the Chinese Americans surveyed say they would support the US in military or economic conflicts, compared with only approximately 56% of the general population.
  • 47% of the general population believes that Asian Americans have too little power in Washington, and 82% of Chinese Americans agree. At the same time, 36% of the general population thinks that Asian Americans have the right amount of power and influence in Washington, while only 15% of Chinese Americans agree.
  • 65% of the general population believes Asian-American students are adequately represented on college campuses, with 45% of Chinese Americans agreeing and 36% arguing that they are underrepresented.
  • While Asian Americans hold only about 1.5% of corporate board seats among Fortune 500 50% of the general population believes Asian Americans are adequately represented on corporate boards, while 23% of Chinese Americans agree.
  • 46% percent of the general population believes Asian Americans are promoted at the same pace as Caucasians, while only 29% of Chinese Americans agree.
  • Of the general population, 63% feel Asian Americans face a lot or some discrimination,
    while slightly more Chinese Americans (69%) feel that Asian Americans encounter a lot or some prejudice.


C-100 suggests that the disparity in the findings from the two surveys demonstrates that prejudice against Asian Americans exists. “At a time when some pundits claim that America has moved beyond race, this survey shows that there is broad ignorance of significant populations of Americans,” said Helen Zia, vice chair for Media at C-100. “In the absence of real information, harmful stereotypes still render Asian Americans as ‘Other’ outsiders to our democracy.”

Improvements since 2001

On a more positive note, the study found that – compared with a similar C-100 survey conducted in 2001 -? the general population now holds a more favorable opinion of Chinese and Asian Americans:

  • In 2001, 23% of the general population said they would feel uncomfortable voting for an Asian American as US President. In 2009, that number has reduced to 9%. When electing a mayor, a majority of the general population (74%) believe the people they know would vote for an Asian American male if he was more qualified than the white male candidate.
  • In 2001, 24% of the general population disapproved of a family member marrying an Asian American; but in 2009, that number has reduced to 11%.
  • 70% of the general population believes the increase in Asian immigrants over the past 10 years has been good for America, up from 49% in 2001.
    In 2001, 56% of the general population believed that Chinese Americans have contributed much to the American culture; the number has now risen to 73% in 2009.

About the research: “Still the Other? Public Attitudes Toward Chinese and Asian Americans,” is based on two surveys that were commissioned by C-100 and conducted by Harris Interactive. One was administered to 1,221 adults, ages 18+, and one was administered to 206 self-identified Chinese Americans, ages 18+ through a 23-minute telephone survey. Both surveys were conducted in January 2009, and results were weighted as needed for age, sex, ethnicity, region, education, household income and place of birth (Chinese Americans only) to represent the national population of adults and specifically Chinese Americans.

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