Americans Who Trust Trump are More Likely to Discriminate Asian Americans Over COVID-19, Study Shows

Amid the COVID-19 crisis, U.S. adults who have greater trust in President Donald Trump are more likely to engage in discriminatory behavior against Asian Americans, a new study revealed.

Trump, who has referred to SARS-CoV-2 as the “Chinese virus” and “Kung Flu,” routinely defends his use of the terms, saying that they were meant to indict China rather than Asian Americans.

However, his followers appear to miss the difference, as the study published in the International Journal of Public Health suggests that they would express more bias against the group than those who trust in science.

“We found over 40% of our sample reported they would engage in at least one discriminatory behavior toward people of Asian descent. Respondents who were fearful of COVID-19 (b = .09, p < 0.001) and had less accurate knowledge about the virus (b = − .07, p < 0.001) reported more negative attitudes toward Asians as did respondents with less trust in science (b = − .06, p < 0.001) and more trust in President Trump (b = .04, p < 0.001).”

Based on surveys of 1,141 U.S. residents in March 2020, the study found that more than 40% were willing to engage in at least one biased and discriminatory behavior toward people of Asian descent, such as refusing to sit next to one.

Researchers found that men, Republicans and non-white individuals reported greater bias toward Asians compared to the rest of the respondents.

Additionally, those who had worse fears of contracting COVID-19, those who knew less about the disease and those who had greater trust in Trump were also linked to having higher levels of bias towards Asian Americans.

“These findings highlight the power that leaders and news outlets have in shaping the discrimination against Asian Americans that has continued to unfold in response to COVID-19 and suggest that a coordinated and robust public health response may not only save lives, but limit exposure to stigma and discrimination among minority groups,” researchers Lindsay Y. Dhanani and Berkeley Franz told PsyPost.

“The most important takeaway from our study is that COVID-19 does appear to be stoking bias toward Asian Americans in ways that can be very damaging to the short-term and long-term wellbeing of Asian Americans.”


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This afternoon, I was verbally and almost physically assaulted by a stranger due to the color of my skin. While I was waiting in line to order food, the person next to me handed me their card and said let’s have lunch together. I declined and said, “I’m sorry, I’m married.” He then snatched his card back and screamed the most HATEFUL racial slurs and DEGRADING words in the English dictionary towards me. I am appalled that someone would tell me to “Go back to Asia” after being born and raised in the US. What was more disappointing is that LAPD said there’s NOTHING they can do to address the situation. This is 2020 and we are ALL fighting for EQUAL rights. I will never forget the words that this man uttered. Please share this video so we can raise awareness that treating everyone with love and kindness is more important now than ever before. I hope and pray that someone can recognize this man so he can get the help that he desperately needs before another person is attacked.

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The pair of researchers have been following the stories about Asian Americans experiencing abuse at the onset of COVID-19 in the U.S. They believe that the “stigmatizing language” used to describe the coronavirus may have strengthened the harassment.

“When leaders couple a public health threat with people from specific countries or racial/ethnic groups, the effects on racial resentment spill over onto other targets,” the researchers wrote in a Medium article. “Trump was not talking explicitly about race or immigration, but seems to have activated existing biases toward immigrants and minorities in ways that seemingly have little to do with the threat of the virus itself.”

Dhanani and Franz called for conversations to get to the root of xenophobia, particularly social and economic inequalities that promote fear toward those perceived to be competing for scarce resources. They hope to see public health campaigns that improve people’s knowledge.

“Public health leaders must confront fear of the virus, improve knowledge, and bolster trust in science as these factors may evoke negative attitudes toward Asians and increase prejudice and discrimination. Specifically, our findings warrant the adoption of public health campaigns that provide health information and build trust in scientific knowledge,” they concluded.

Feature Image via Gage Skidmore (CC BY-SA 2.0)

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