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Two-thirds of L.A. County Asian Americans fear racial attacks, survey finds

People hold signs at a rally
A rally against anti-Asian violence and hate crimes in Los Angeles last year.
(Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times)
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Two-thirds of Asian Americans in Los Angeles County are worried about being a victim of a racial attack, and a strong majority want police funding increased or kept the same, according to poll results released Tuesday.

The poll also found high political engagement, with 92% saying they were very or somewhat likely to vote in this year’s midterm elections.

Asian Americans make up 11% of registered voters in L.A. County and 9% in the city of Los Angeles.

In a busy and competitive election season, “understanding the AAPI community ... is quite important,” Raphael Sonenshein, executive director of the Pat Brown Institute for Public Affairs at Cal State Los Angeles, which commissioned the survey along with the California Community Foundation, said in an email.

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The poll of 1,500 Asian American and Pacific Islander residents of L.A. County is among the biggest surveys of the group, often referred to as AAPI, in recent years.

It comes three months before a June 7 primary election that will narrow the field for congressional and local contests, including mayor of L.A., eight L.A. City Council districts and two seats on the L.A. County Board of Supervisors.

Generally, Latinos are concerned about crime and racial discrimination but not on board with defunding the police, according to the survey.

March 2, 2022

“We find convincing evidence that in the wake of racial discrimination, Asian Americans have not withdrawn from politics. Instead, AAPIs have become more active,” said Nathan Chan, a research associate at the Pat Brown Institute, in a webinar on Tuesday.

The survey, similar to one released this month on L.A. County Latino residents, found homelessness and the COVID-19 pandemic to be the top issues for the majority of Asian Americans.

The majority of those polled also expressed support for bonds and sales taxes to fund supportive services and housing for those who are homeless, similar to measures that county and city voters approved a few years ago.

Nearly a quarter of those polled had their work hours cut during the pandemic, and 13% lost their jobs, with younger residents experiencing the biggest impact.

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The survey found Asian Americans strongly cared about addressing anti-Asian hate, Sonenshein said.

Of those polled, 80% said anti-Asian racism is a serious problem during the pandemic, with 36% saying it’s an extremely serious issue.

Nearly a quarter said someone has verbally or physically abused them or damaged their property during the pandemic because of their race or ethnicity.

Nearly a third of Asian Americans in the San Gabriel Valley said they or their family members have experienced anti-Asian hate during the COVID-19 pandemic, a new survey found.

Jan. 13, 2022

Younger generations were more likely to say they were targeted because of their race or ethnicity, with 31% of those ages 18 to 34 responding “yes” compared with 11% of those 60 and older.

Asian Americans were most likely to face discrimination at workplaces, followed by schools and grocery stores, according to the poll.

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Anti-Asian attacks have increased around the country since early 2020, with some people blaming Asian Americans for the coronavirus because the first cases were reported in China.

Asian Americans in the U.S. have roots in a wide array of countries and speak many languages. Still, about two-thirds of those surveyed said they think of themselves as Asian Americans “quite a lot” or “a lot.”

More than 50% of Chinese Americans said they identify as Asian Americans “quite a lot,” compared with 39% of both Japanese and Vietnamese Americans.

More than 80% of those polled said it’s very or somewhat important for Asian Americans to represent them in public offices.

The only major candidate for L.A. mayor with Asian ancestry is Kevin de León, whose parents are from Latin America and whose father was of Chinese descent.

Sonenshein said political candidates will need to show their understanding of the AAPI community and its complex views of law enforcement, racial discrimination and other issues.

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For instance, the survey found that 47% of Korean Americans want an increase in police funding, compared with 37% who want it to remain the same.

The proportion was nearly flipped for Indian Americans, with 23% wanting the increase and 50% the status quo.

The mention of the possible closure of Olympic station, amidst city budget cuts, sent Korean American leaders to the LAPD’s defense and rallying to keep a strong police presence in their community.

Jan. 19, 2021

Half of those surveyed said they lean Democratic, with 14% leaning Republican and 35% identifying as independent or neither.

“As with Latina(o) surveys, this community is very Democratic, but includes both liberal and moderate opinions,” Sonenshein said.

The large number of Asian Americans identifying as independent voters means means a greater share of the group as a whole can be persuaded to support candidates or issues regardless of party affiliations if given the opportunity to talk directly with political or community organizations, said Lian Cheun, executive director of the community group Khmer Girls in Action in Long Beach.

The poll was conducted last year from Nov. 8 to Dec. 24, online and over the phone in English, Spanish, Chinese, Tagalog and Korean. The margin of error was plus or minus 2.5 percentage points.

Residents of other Asian ethnicities, including Thai, Pakistani, Cambodian, Bangladeshi and Laotian, were included, but those sample sizes were too small to be broken out separately.

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