Envy of Asian Success One of Strongest Factors to Prejudice in COVID-19 Pandemic, Survey Shows


Prejudice against Asian Americans is the strongest reason behind the beliefs that they caused the pandemic, a new study shows.

An April poll revealed that while the majority of Americans see COVID-19 as a natural disaster, one-third has witnessed someone blame those of Asian descent.

In the new study published this week, researchers from Ohio State University (OSU) presented three factors associated with the stigmatization of the group amid the pandemic. These include (1) racial prejudice, (2) maladaptive coping and (3) biased media.

Between May 11 and May 19, they surveyed 842 adults — excluding Asians — from a pool of three million Americans with diverse demographic and socioeconomic characteristics. They were asked a variety of questions, including the severity of COVID-19’s impact, their self-efficacy in coping, what the pandemic makes them feel and whether they actually blame Asians for the situation.


The researchers found that prejudice, which consists of stereotypical beliefs and envious feelings, is the strongest predictor of the belief that Asian Americans are responsible for the health crisis.

“It was striking that this general prejudice against Asian Americans appeared to play a powerful role in the stigmatization of this group in the specific context of COVID-19,” said Hyunyi Cho, lead author of the study and professor of communication at OSU.

Results also showed that those with higher levels of fear about COVID-19, those who feel most harmed and those with lower levels of coping are more likely to stigmatize.

Additionally, participants who watch Fox News and consume more social media for COVID-19 information are more likely to blame Asian Americans, compared to those who watch CNN or MSNBC and do not consume as much social media.

Lower stigmatization was found in participants with higher levels of “collective efficacy,” which was represented by statements such as “I feel that Americans can work together to effectively overcome the current COVID-19 crisis” and “Working together, we can minimize the harms of COVID-19 to American society.”

“Finding ways to foster collective efficacy can be an antidote to divisive communication on partisan cable television and social media,” said Wenbo Li, a doctoral candidate who co-authored the study.

To improve understanding, researchers encourage the promotion of intergroup interactions through mediated channels, especially for those who have limited contact with racial minorities.

They also stressed the responsibility of the media to ensure factual and scientifically accurate coverage, as well as the importance of public education efforts to correct misperceptions.

Feature Image via Getty

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