The Return of 'Yellow Peril': 2020 Candidates and Anti-Asian Rhetoric

10/21/20 – Asian Americans are the fastest growing electorate of all racial groups. Eleven million Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPIs) are eligible to vote in this upcoming election and are expected to make up nearly 5% of the nation’s eligible voters. Racial discrimination is among the top concerns for Asian American voters, and racial and ethnic inequality is among the major concerns of all voters.

This report reviews anti-Asian American rhetoric by politicians, including rhetoric related to the COVID-19 pandemic, in the months preceding the 2020 presidential election. Looking specifically on Twitter, the researchers analyzed 1,227 tweets about Asian Americans over an eight month period, and found that over 1 in 10 including racist or stigmatizing language. All of these racist tweets, which were retweeted 1,310,828 times, came from Republican politicians. Furthermore, the research indicates that nearly half of stigmatizing tweets are unrelated to COVID-19, suggesting that politicians are employing anti-Asian American rhetoric not only in response to the pandemic.

The research suggests that President Donald Trump, whose racist or stigmatizing tweets have by far the greatest reach and were retweeted 1,213,700 times and liked 4,276,200 times, is the greatest spreader among politicians of anti-Asian American rhetoric related to the pandemic.

The report also provides a corresponding timeline of federal policies introduced or enacted during a similar period that disproportionately impact – and in some cases appear to even target – Asian American community members, finding a total of 24 policies from Republican politicians. Together, the research and policies offer a view into a political strategy to employ racist rhetoric in order to enact xenophobic policies and justify their need.

Read the report in its entirety here. (PDF file)

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