Annual Survey Reveals 1 in 2 Asian Americans Feel Unsafe; Nearly 80% Do Not Fully Feel They Belong and Are Accepted in the U.S.
San Francisco, May 2, 2023 – The Asian American Foundation (TAAF) today announced the findings of the third annual STAATUS Index—”Social Tracking of Asian Americans in the U.S.”—the leading study examining attitudes and stereotypes towards Asian American and Pacific Islanders (AAPIs) in the U.S. The inaugural 2021 STAATUS Index was one of the first national studies on this topic in 20 years.
The survey is a nationally representative study based on a sample of 5,235 U.S-based respondents aged 16 and over, conducted online between February 9 to March 13, 2023.
This year’s survey reveals that 1 in 2 Asian Americans feel unsafe in the U.S. and nearly 80% of Asian Americans do not completely feel they belong and are accepted. Discrimination and lack of leadership representation contribute most to Asian Americans’ lack of belonging in the U.S. Additionally, the survey revealed that young and female Asian Americans are least likely to feel they completely belong and are accepted.
“We’re seeing a continuing and alarming trend in that the majority of Asian Americans do not feel safe or feel like they belong here because of their race,” said Norman Chen, CEO of TAAF. “Anti-Asian violence haunts our community and takes a toll in every part of our lives, from riding a public bus to attending school. We can’t blame political rhetoric and the COVID-19 pandemic alone for anti-Asian sentiment. Historic stereotypes and prejudices towards our communities are persistent and deeply entrenched.”
“The report also shows that geopolitics may affect anti-Asian sentiment, causing distrust and putting communities on edge,” Chen said. “It is startling to see that more than one in four of Americans still think Asian Americans are more loyal to their perceived country of origin than to the U.S. These unfortunate and enduring misperceptions erode our sense of belonging and safety as AAPIs. By tracking these perceptions, we want to draw attention and implement solutions to the very real and persistent problems impacting the daily lives of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.”
TAAF, supported by leading AAPI scholars and research organizations such as LAAUNCH, AAPI Data, and Asian American Research Initiative, designed and implemented the STAATUS Index study. The results from the study inform TAAF's own programming including supporting initiatives that counter bias and build belonging among AAPIs. For example, TAAF’s areas of focus include improving public education curricula so that AAPI history is taught in schools, supporting tracking and reducing incidence of hate and promoting authentic and diverse AAPI narratives in journalism, media, film, and television—all efforts aimed at addressing the root causes of harmful, racist attitudes.
TAAF will release the STAATUS Index survey annually to track changes in American perceptions regarding AAPIs.
Key findings of the survey are listed below, and the complete STAATUS Index is available here.
1 in 2 Asian Americans feel unsafe in the U.S.; nearly 80% of Asian Americans do not fully feel they belong and are accepted.
Discrimination and lack of leadership representation contribute most to Asian Americans’ low levels of belonging in the U.S., felt most acutely by young and female Asian Americans.
1 in 2 Asian Americans report feeling unsafe in the U.S. due to their race/ethnicity.
- 52% of Asian American respondents have felt uncomfortable or unsafe due to their race and ethnicity, along with 53% of Black, and 47% of Hispanic respondents, compared to 28% of white respondents.
- Asian Americans feel the least safe on public transportation (29%), followed by in their own neighborhood (19%), school (19%), workplace (17%), and their local market (17%).
- 12% of Asian American respondents feel unsafe where they vote.
Asian Americans—especially young and female Asian Americans—are among the least likely of all racial groups surveyed to feel belonging and acceptance in America.
- 78% of Asian Americans do not fully feel that they belong and are accepted in the U.S., similar to Hispanic (75%) and Black (76%) respondents; and compared to 43% of white respondents.
- Younger Asian Americans (17% aged 16-24 completely agreed to the statement about belonging and acceptance) and Asian American women (19%) are less likely to feel like they belong and are accepted.
Of those who do not feel like they belong:
- 58% of Asian Americans say the top reason for feeling like they don’t belong is from experiencing discrimination directly due to their race. Asian Americans also say not seeing others like them in positions of power (43%) is another major reason for feeling a lack of belonging.
- Asian Americans feel like they don’t belong in the workplace (39%), in online spaces/ social media (39%), in their own neighborhoods (33%), and in schools (32%).
Americans see China as a threat; view Asian Americans in different (and sometimes contradictory) ways.
- 83% of respondents see China as a military/national security threat, 74% as an economic threat, and 44% as a health threat.
- Older and white Americans overwhelmingly (>80%) see China as a threat.
- Contrastingly, 79% of Americans do not believe people of Chinese descent living in America pose a threat to the U.S. Respondents also overwhelmingly (87%) are comfortable with Asian Americans’ employment in jobs that involve national security.
- Yet, nearly one-third of Americans see Asian Americans as more loyal to their perceived country of origin.
- Close to one-third (31%) think Asian Americans should be subject to additional scrutiny if they work in areas considered critical to U.S. global strategic competitiveness.
When asked what fueled anti-Asian violence:
- 73% of respondents say it was due to blaming Asian Americans for COVID-19.
- 47% say that it was because people see Asian Americans as foreigners rather than Americans.
- 47% believe that the Chinese government is spying on America which led to the attacks.
Americans’ openness to improving their relationship with and understanding of AAPIs signals room for progress, cross-racial solidarity, and representation.
- 64% of all respondents believe that Asian Americans are somewhat or highly inaccurately portrayed in film/TV and 61% feel NHPIs are somewhat or highly inaccurately portrayed in film/TV.
- 69% of Asian American respondents felt that they were somewhat or highly inaccurately portrayed in film/TV.
- 26% of respondents said they could not name a famous Asian American figure and 32% could not name a famous NHPI person.
- When asked to name a famous Asian American figure, top responses were: Jackie Chan (who is not American), Bruce Lee (who died 50 years ago), Kamala Harris
- To improve their relationship with Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, more than 60% of Americans would like more opportunities to interact with AAPIs and learn about their experience and history.
- 3 out of 5 Americans think that incorporating the Asian American experience into the teaching of American history is important.
- 1 in 4 respondents thinks they share “a lot” of economic interests (26%) and core values (25%) with Asian Americans, signaling an opportunity to grow understanding & connections with AAPIs.
The results of this report are based on a survey of 5,235 U.S.-based respondents, age 16 and above, conducted through an online panel, between February 9 to March 13, 2023, by Savanta Research.
The sample was weighted using population parameters (race, age, gender, education, and region) from the U.S. Census Bureau. This weighting reflects the national population.
About the STAATUS Index
The STAATUS Index—Social Tracking of Asian Americans in the U.S.—is a comprehensive, annual assessment of attitudes and stereotypes towards Asian Americans. The inaugural 2021 STAATUS Index was one of the first national studies on this topic in 20 years. Conducted annually, the survey tracks trends in how American sentiment is changing as a result of both long-term stereotypes and current events.
TAAF is the national organization fundamentally transforming the future for AAPIs across all sectors. Founded in 2021 in response to the rise in anti-Asian hate and address the long-standing underinvestment in AAPI communities, TAAF funds organizations working to mobilize against hate and violence, educate communities, and reclaim our narratives. Through our grants, high-impact initiatives and events, we’re creating a permanent and irrevocable sense of belonging for millions of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in the United States. For additional information about TAAF, please visit www.taaf.org.
Vice President, Media, Edelman
Head of Communications and Marketing, TAAF