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Poll: Most Asian Americans say violence against them is increasing

A man wearing a face mask and shield reading “Stop Asian Hate” takes part in a Black Lives Matter protest in Huntington Beach, Calif., on April 11. (Ringo Chiu/Reuters)

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Eighty-one percent of Asian adults say violence against the group — the fastest-growing racial population in the United States — is rising, a new Pew Research Center survey found.

“It far surpasses the share of all U.S. adults when we asked the same questions,” said one of the survey’s authors, Neil Ruiz, the associate director of race and ethnicity research at Pew.

The survey, conducted about a month after shootings at three Atlanta spas left six Asian women dead, found that 45 percent of Asians experienced at least one of five offensive incidents since the start of the pandemic. The incidents included Asians being subjected to racial slurs and jokes and people acting as if they were uncomfortable around Asians.

“This is nothing new, it happened before the pandemic, but what we do see is this rising fear,” Ruiz said.

The survey of 352 Asian adults likely doesn’t cover the full extent of the concern, Ruiz said, because the survey was conducted only in English.

Those who reported an increase in violence gave many reasons for the rise, according to responses from an open-ended question posed by researchers. About 20 percent pointed to rhetoric used by former president Donald Trump, who referred to the coronavirus as the “Chinese flu” or “kung flu” several times, as a factor in the rise in violence toward Asians.

“Four years of Trump has normalized racism and bullying,” one 40-year-old woman wrote. “His continual example of blaming Asians for the coronavirus is allowing people to openly discriminate against Asian[s].”

While reports of attacks against Asian Americans have grown more visible in the last few months amid high-profile incidents, the population has long experienced discrimination and racist attacks in the United States. Legislation in 1882 banned immigration from China for 20 years, and in 1871, a mob of 500 people attacked Los Angeles’s Chinatown, killing 19.

The April survey found that 73 percent of Asian adults reported experiencing discrimination or unfair treatment because of their race, compared to 76 percent in a February 2019 survey.

On Thursday, the Senate passed the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act, a bipartisan bill aimed at improving the investigation of hate crimes against Asian Americans. At a news conference after the signing of the bill, Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.) shared what she thinks means for the Asian American and Pacific Islander community:

“This bill tells the AAPI community, who are seen as ‘the other,’ who are often asked ‘where are you from, really?’ ... this tells the AAPI community ‘We see you, we stand with you and we will protect you,’ ” Duckworth said. “There is a lot more work to be done. This is a good first step.”