In the focus groups, the majority of
non-Asian American participants could
not make meaningful distinctions between
Asian Americans of different national
origins. Therefore, the focus group participants
had very few distinct impressions of
Chinese Americans in contrast to Asian
Americans of other national origins.
The Yankelovich survey confirmed Americans'
inability to distinguish between Chinese
Americans and other Asian Americans.
a handful of non-Asian focus group participants,
50% of who were post-graduates, could
make meaningful distinctions between
Asian Americans of different national
origins and they believed few other non-Asians
could do so. To the extent they could
offer impressions, the non-Asians believed
the Japanese Americans were the likeliest
to be successful at business, and there
was some limited awareness of tension
between Korean Americans and African
all of the Asian American focus group
participants believed that very few non-Asian
Americans could make meaningful distinctions
between Asian Americans of different
focus groups clearly indicated that most
non-Asian Americans are unable to distinguish
between Chinese Americans and other Asian
Americans. Consequently, most of our
analysis deals with non-Asian reaction
to Asian Americans generally, rather
than reaction to Chinese Americans, specifically.
Yankelovich survey also looked at this
issue, and confirmed that Americans could
not distinguish between Chinese Americans
and other Asian Americans: "The
main focus of this study was Americans'
prejudice toward Chinese Americans. Additionally,
however, the research sought to determine
whether attitudes toward "Chinese
Americans" were largely the same
or different than those toward "Asian
Americans" generally. For this purpose,
1,002 Americans were asked their opinions
about stereotypes of "Chinese Americans" and
214 Americans were asked their opinion
about identically worded stereotypes
of "Asian Americans." The results
were nearly identical - suggesting that
anti- Chinese American prejudice is a
subset of broader, anti-Asian American
prejudice. Whether this is also true
of other Asian groups (Japanese, Korean,
Vietnamese, Filipino, etc.) needs to
be investigated separately."
Racial discrimination in America: The
focus group participants believed that
African Americans face the most discrimination
in the U.S. and Hispanics face only slightly
less. Of the three racial groups tested,
the participants believed Asian Americans
faced the least discrimination. The Yankelovich
national survey confirmed this rank order.
However, the same poll found striking
levels of anti-Asian American views.
All of the focus group participants, including Asian Americans, agreed
that African Americans face the most discrimination, and that Hispanics
still face considerable discrimination but less than African Americans.
majority of the participants believed
Asian Americans still face discrimination
in the U.S., but virtually all participants
believed that African Americans and Hispanics
face much more racial discrimination.
This was one of the clearest findings of the focus group research,
and the Asian American focus group participants supported it.
white participants believed that Asian
Americans do not face a great deal of
discrimination. A few younger, more well
educated Asian Americans and Chinese
Americans (more so in NYC) believed Asian
Americans faced minimal discrimination.
Yankelovich survey confirmed the rank
order that emerged in the focus groups
- but it also found significant levels
of anti-Asian American prejudice:
much racial discrimination do you think
each of the following groups face today?
Do you think they face a lot, some, a
little, or none at all?
contrast, the Yankelovich survey ALSO
of Americans would be uncomfortable voting
for an Asian American candidate for president.
24% of Americans would disapprove of someone in their family marrying
an Asian American.
17% of Americans would be upset if Asian Americans moved into their neighborhood.
Most of the focus group participants were critical of the lack of
progress on the issue of racial discrimination in the U.S. Not surprisingly,
the sharpest criticism came from African-American and Hispanic-American
participants. However, most white participants were also critical
about America's lack of progress on the issue.
focus groups were conducted in three
racially diverse urban areas (NYC, LA,
Chicago). Also, many groups consisted
of very well-educated participants. These
two factors probably produced a more
progressive orientation among the participants
on social issues. Therefore, it may not
be all that surprising that a majority
of these focus group participants believed
that while the U.S. had made progress
on the issue of racial discrimination,
there was much work to be done.
Asian American participants were also
critical of America's lack of progress
on the issue of racial discrimination,
but several, in contrast to the black
and Hispanic participants, were more
optimistic about our progress as a nation.
we began this work, we assumed that many
focus group participants would indicate
that the U.S. has made significant progress
on the issue of racial discrimination.
However, the critical judgments of the
focus group participants were so consistent
that the larger social context on this
issue may be less optimistic than we
would have thought. A clear majority
of the focus group participants -- of
all races -- believed the issue still
deserves major attention.
when asked to consider future remedies
to deal with the issue of racial discrimination,
a clear majority of the focus group participants
believed the outstanding issues were
largely personal and emotional, particularly
the basic acceptance of all people regardless
of color. In their view, the outstanding
issues are "matters of the heart," not
matters of law.
A consensus existed among all focus group
participants, regardless of race, regarding
the roots of prejudice: the same words
and terms emerged in all of the focus
groups. A lack of education and a lack
of a "proper upbringing" were
the most prevalent explanations for prejudicial
views. The Yankelovich survey confirmed
the impact of a lack of education in
shaping prejudicial views.
Most of the focus group participants mentioned a lack of education,
which produced a minimal understanding of, and respect for, cultural
differences, as probably the most prevalent explanation for prejudicial
lack of education emerged as a key underlying
factor for prejudicial views in the Yankelovich
"This study, like other studies on prejudice, shows that the main source
of prejudice is a lack of education and a lower level of cognitive sophistication
associated with a lower education."
lack of "proper upbringing" was
mentioned as frequently by the focus
group participants. While some thought
that an individual could change his/her
prejudicial views over time, most thought
it was very difficult to overcome a lack
of proper family values. Many participants
used the phrase, "prejudice is taught."
insecurity was also seen to be a major
factor in the formation and/or the reinforcement
of discriminatory views. Many participants
mentioned the fear of job loss as a specific
Ignorance: the word ignorance emerged in virtually all of the groups,
and by it, participants meant a willingness to accept racial stereotypes without
considering alternative views.
Fear: the word fear emerged in all of the groups. To the participants,
this meant fear of the unknown, an emotional fear -- not physical fear.
Personal insecurity, and a lack of self-esteem were thought to be key
personal factors that breed resentment and a jealousy of others.
Finally, the focus group participants thought the lack of exposure or
interaction with other groups was a major contributor to racial prejudice because
it preserved prejudicial views.
Among the non-Asian focus group participants,
the positive judgments about Asian Americans
were very sharply defined and emerged
without any prompting. When considered
together, these positive perceptions
reveal a very clear, and ultimately,
very flattering portrait of Asian Americans.
The non-Asian focus group participants
had no difficulty in listing the many
virtues of Asian Americans. These positive
views are very
sharply defined, and taken together, they paint a very clear, and
ultimately, very flattering portrait. Asian Americans are
seen to be exceptionally hard working.
are seen to have strong family values.
They respect their elders.
The Asian American family/community places a great emphasis on education.
They are seen to be people who truly believe education is the path to future
Asian Americans are thought to be very smart. The community produces a
disproportionate share of academic superstars.
They are very ambitious and industrious. They are interested in owning
their own businesses.
Asian Americans have great respect for their history and culture.
Asian Americans are talented and creative.
Finally, Asian Americans are well mannered. They are quiet. They don't
cause problems and don't complain. They are not troublemakers.
clearly troublesome, the negative judgments
about Asian Americans that emerged in
the focus groups were less clearly defined,
less top-of-the-mind than the positive
views. Nevertheless, an understandable "negative
portrait" emerged. Many of these
negative perceptions were confirmed in
the Yankelovich survey.
the negative judgments about Asian Americans
were less top-of-the-mind, the same criticisms
were mentioned in most of the groups
and when they are considered together,
they create a coherent statement:
unlike the prejudicial attitudes towards
blacks and Hispanics that stem from many
negative judgments about the respective
communities, the prejudicial views against
Asian Americans are frequently resentful
reactions to perceived Asian American
the non-Asian focus group participants
appeared to have a distant, and emotionally
cool relationship with the Asian American
community. This "emotional distance" seemed
to be at the heart of many of the other
criticisms. The white participants indicated
that they had much less interaction with
Asian Americans than they did with blacks
and Hispanics. The most frequently
mentioned criticism if the focus groups
was that Asian Americans keep to themselves. "They
stick together." "They are
"Asian Americans have a tendency to be arrogant." "They
look down on others."
"They are not approachable." "They are not friendly."
"Asian Americans cannot be fully trusted." "They are two-faced."
"Asian Americans are secretive and insular." "They have
a hidden agenda." "They won't reveal what they are really thinking."
"They do not speak English and don't want to."
"They are only interested in doing business with other Asian Americans,
making it very difficult for non-Asians to conduct business with them."
"In business, they are only interested in money -- and don't care
about establishing enduring business relationships."
Some participants from every focus group said they were bad drivers. Asian
Americans humorously agreed.
Yankelovich survey confirmed many of
the negative views that emerged in the
"At the same time, a sizeable minority of Americans holds negative stereotypes
of Chinese Americans.
most prevalent involve perceptions that Chinese Americans have too much
power and influence
her anti-Chinese American stereotypes, held by fewer Americans, include
being clannish, conceited, unfair in business, and two-faced."
Most focus group participants believed
that the substantial increase of immigrants
to the U.S. during the 1990's had exacerbated
interracial tension in the country. All
focus group participants, non-Asian and
Asian alike, agreed that an economic
slowdown could create real resentments
against Asian Americans among more economically
vulnerable Americans. The Yankelovich
survey clearly revealed some of these
majority of all focus group participants,
non-Asian and Asian alike, believed that
the explosion of immigration during the
1990's has heightened interracial tensions
in the country.
The participants agreed that the economic boom of the 1990's had
minimized popular resentment about the growth of the immigrant population
but they believed that these resentments, coupled with an economic
slowdown, could create serious problems for the Asian American community.
The Asian American focus group participants certainly felt it could.
all participants agreed that an economic
downturn could exacerbate concerns about
all newly arrived immigrants competing
for and taking away "American" jobs.
a slowdown coupled with the perceptions
about the industriousness and hard work
of Asian Americans -- could contribute
to a specific backlash against Asian
The Asian American focus group participants in Los Angeles believed
the rapidly growing number of Asian Americans in their area has focused
more attention on them and has sparked concerns about their potential
to compete for jobs.
know from our previous work that xenophobic
attitudes are powerful forces in prejudicial
views. These anti-immigrant Americans
believe that "Americans" should
be taken care of before newly arrived
immigrants receive any special consideration.
Yankelovich survey found:
28% of Americans believe that influx of Asian Americans during the past
decade has been BAD for America.
35% of Americans agree that, "It bothers me to see immigrants succeeding
more than Americans who were born here."
24% agree that Chinese Americans are taking away too many jobs from Americans."
The focus group participants believed
the military and/or economic power of
China is a looming future threat to U.S
security, a view shared by many of the
non-Chinese Asian participants. Virtually
all the Asian Americans and Chinese American
participants indicated that their lives
could be adversely affected if there
was a serious showdown between the U.S.
and China. The Yankelovich survey found
that two-thirds of Americans see China
as a future threat to U.S. security and
one-third questioned Chinese-American
loyalty to the U.S.
asked all the focus group participants
which of the following presented the
greatest future threat to U.S. national
economic power of Japan.
The nuclear arsenal of Russia.
The military and /or economic power of China.
surprisingly, international terrorism
was seen to be the greatest future threat
to U.S. national security by the focus
group participants. However, a majority
of the focus group participants saw the
military and economic power of China
as the next most serious future threat
to the U.S. The non-Chinese Asian participants
were almost as likely as the non-Asians
to indicate that China was a serious
In this regard the focus group participants saw the Chinese leaders
as willful adversaries; any future tension will not be accidental.
Several expressed the belief that a serious showdown between the
U.S. and China was inevitable.
all the Asian Americans and Chinese American
participants indicated that their lives
would be adversely affected if there
was a serious showdown between U.S. and
China because other Americans would call
their basic loyalty to the U.S. into
question. There was a strong consensus
on this matter.
Yankelovich survey found widespread concern
about China. The survey also found major
reservations about Chinese-American loyalty
to the U.S.: Two-thirds (68%)
see China as a future threat to the U.S.
61% have an unfavorable impression of the government of China.
32% of Americans agree that Chinese-Americans are more loyal to China
than the U.S.
In the focus groups, Asian Americans
were seen to be less likely to be full
participants in the entire community
as other Americans. They were seen to
be more inward looking. The Yankelovich
survey captured some of these feelings.
the non-Asian American participants,
there was a strong sense that Asian Americans
are more inward-looking the other Americans;
that they are fundamentally less interested
in the affairs of their local community
than their fellow citizens.
non-Asians argued that this was nothing
more than the classic journey of assimilation
that virtually all immigrants to America
have experienced. Other non-Asians, however,
felt that the Asian American community
had willfully turned its back on the
rest of the American community. They
argued Asian Americans chose to live
separately because they felt superior
to other Americans, and had no real interest
in the rest of the community because
they were only interested in making money.
Several non-Asians said that Asian Americans only came to the U.S.
to make money before they return to their native land.
Asian American participants acknowledged
that Asian Americans were more inward
looking. However, younger Asian American
participants, in particular, believed
that this was a natural occurrence in
the assimilation of Asian -Americans
into U.S. life, no different than the
experience of other immigrants in the
Yankelovich survey found:
28% agree that Chinese-Americans are hard to get close to, make friends
21% agree that Chinese-Americans don't care what happens to any but their
A discussion about the educational success
of Asian-America teens indicated that
this issue has the potential to create
some tension among non-Asian middle-class
parents with college-bound kids.
The educational success of Asian American teens was well understood
in the focus groups. The participants were very much aware that Asian
American teens have won a disproportionate share of college admissions
at the best schools in the country.
is also clear this is a potentially divisive
issue that is slowly moving to the surface
and may have already begun to create
some tensions among middle-class parents
with college-bound kids. Several parents
of college students spoke ruefully about
the experience of their own kids struggling
to compete against these Asian American
academic superstars; a few expressed
their strong disapproval of admission
policies that so strongly favored one
every focus group, there was a sizeable
group of participants that adamantly
favored merit-based admissions exclusively. "Wouldn't
you want the very best brain surgeon
operating on you?" was a question
raised in more than one focus group.
underlying issues about college admissions
were not top-of- the- mind for the focus
group participants and after a brief
explanation, we began several extended
debates on the issue.
first consideration, a majority of the
focus group participants were strong
supporters of merit-based college admissions.
However, when confronted with the reality
of Asian American acceptance rates at
the best schools, some of the non-Asian
focus group participants became increasingly
troubled about this imbalance and began
to more carefully consider the merits
of admission policies that also attempted
to recruit racially representative classes.
at the end of lengthy discussions about
merit-based acceptance policies verses
admission policies that also strive to
reflect the general population, a narrow
majority of the participants continued
to believe that college-based admissions
should be based exclusively on merit.
However, most African Americans and Hispanics believed that colleges
and universities have an obligation to make sure their student bodies
reflect the general population.
The Asian American focus group participants
believed that too many Americans see
them as foreigners, or as "permanent
aliens." This perception seemed
to have contributed to a lack of interest
in politics among the Asian Americans
participants: Only a few of the Asian
American participants were interested
in politics, a surprising result from
such a well-educated group.
clear majority (not all) of the Asian
Americans and Chinese-American participants
believed that they are seen as foreigners
or "permanent aliens" by too
many non-Asian Americans.
all the participants could describe disturbing
or humorous incidents in which this prejudicial
attitude was revealed by non-Asian Americans,
most frequently through comments such
as, " Where are you from?" "You
speak very good English." etc.
perception about how other non-Asian
Americans see them emerged as one of
the prevalent concerns of the Asian American
participants, and it seems to have contributed
to lack of interest in U.S. politics.
of the Asian American participants, including
the younger participants, did not feel
that that they had much stake in the
American political system and most were
not all that interested in politics.
For example, in the Los Angeles groups,
none of the Asian American and Chinese-American
participants could recall the name of
Matt Fong, the 1998 Republican nominee
for the U.S. Senate.
again, the Asian American focus group
participants were very well educated,
and in this regard, their disinterest
in politics was striking.
when compared to the very well developed
channels of political communication in
both the Jewish and African American
community, the channels of political
communication within the Asian American
community seem very undeveloped.