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5 things to know about a major new Pew poll of Asians in the U.S.

Carlina Teteris
/
Getty Images

The Pew Research Center has released a sweeping new survey of Asians in the U.S., the country's fastest growing racial and ethnic group in recent years.

The first-of-its-kind poll of about 7,000 adults was conducted in English and five other languages and sheds new light on how Asians — both immigrants as well as those born in the U.S. — see themselves and others.

The report put a particular focus on the six largest Asian subgroups — Chinese, Filipino, Indian, Japanese, Korean and Vietnamese — which together account for roughly four in five Asians across the country.

Here are a few takeaways from Pew's survey:

Only 16% call themselves Asian American. Most prefer to use their specific ethnicities

More than half of those surveyed said they used their ethnic group when referring to themselves, either on its own or in tandem with "American."

For example, someone may identify as Chinese or Chinese American.

Just 16% of respondents said they'd call themselves Asian American. Even smaller numbers said they would refer to themselves as Asian, American or a regional moniker, such as Southeast Asian.

There were differences across ethnic groups, though.

Two in three Koreans said they would call themselves Korean or Korean American, while just one-third of Japanese adults said they describe themselves as Japanese or Japanese American.

There are differences in how Asian immigrants and those born in the U.S. see themselves

Immigrants are more likely than U.S.-born Asians to describe themselves using specific ethnic labels and are less likely to use some form of "American" when referring to their identities.

Yet just under 30% of both Asian immigrants and those born in the U.S. say they call themselves "Asian" — either on its own or as part of the term "Asian American."

How long an Asian immigrant has been in the U.S. also has some bearing on how they identify.

Immigrants who came to the U.S. in the past decade are more likely to use their ethnicity to describe themselves than those who arrived in the country more than 20 years ago.

Some 59% of those who have been in the U.S. more than two decades use some form of "American" to identify themselves compared with just 17% of Asian immigrants who arrive in the past 10 years.

Asian immigrants are also less likely to have hidden their heritage from non-Asians, less likely to see themselves as a "typical American" and more likely to have Asian friends than their U.S.-born peers.

Respondents don't see Asians in the U.S. as a monolithic group

Almost all U.S. Asians — 90% — say there are a variety of cultures among ethnic groups originating on the continent. Eighty percent of all U.S. adults agree.

But Asians also believe they are likely to be viewed by others as one group, with 60% responding that someone walking past them on the street would likely identify them simply as "Asian."

One in five Asian adults say they've hidden part of their heritage from non-Asians for fears of ignorance, prejudice, discrimination or other reasons.

Respondents to Pew's survey are also split on what it even means to be Asian. Most Asian adults agree that those from East Asian countries, such as China and Korea, are Asian. Less than half, however, say that people from Central Asian nations including Afghanistan and Kazakhstan would qualify.

Still, roughly 60% of Asians say what happens to other Asians affects them, and more than two-thirds believe it's very or extremely important to have a national leader advocating for Asians in the U.S.

Asians are politically diverse but ...

Sixty-two percent of Asian adults said they were Democrats or leaned that way, compared with 34% identifying as Republican or Republican-leaning.

The party divide is more evenly split among all registered U.S. voters, with 47% identifying as Democrats and 48% as Republicans.

Again, there were differences among ethnic groups. Just over half of Vietnamese registered voters identified with the GOP, while more than two-thirds of Indians, Filipinos and Koreans were Democrats or Democrat-leaning.

... they share similar views of what it means to be American with other U.S. adults

Asians largely shared similar attitudes with all U.S. adults when it came to defining what it means to be "truly American."

The vast majority of Asian adults — and U.S. adults in general — agreed that accepting those with diverse racial and religious backgrounds and believing in individual freedoms were important.

Outsize majorities also said choosing how to live your own life, having a good family and being able to retire comfortably were critical to the American dream.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Joe Hernandez