In 1965, the Asian-American share of the U.S. population stood at less than 1 percent having been held down by a century’s worth of exclusionary policies explicitly based on race. That was the year at the height of the civil rights movement and in the heat of a roaring economy that the U.S. government opened the gates to immigration from all parts of the world, Asia included. The effect has been transformative for the nation and for Asian Americans. Today they make up nearly 6% of the U.S. population. And in an economy that increasingly relies on highly skilled workers, they are the best-educated, highest-income, fastest-growing race group in the country.
The purpose of this multicity, multiethnic, and multilingual survey was to provide a preliminary attempt to gauge the political attitudes and behavior of Asian Americans on a national scale. Major areas of investigation include ethnic identity, acculturation, homeland politics, voting and other types of political participation, political ideology, political partisanship, opinions on various social issues, social connectedness, racial integration, and group discrimination. Respondents were asked whether people of Asian descent had a great deal in common culturally, what they thought were the most important problems facing their own ethnic group, whether they belonged to any organization that represented the interest of their group, and their knowledge of the Wen Ho Lee case, the 8-20 Initiative, and other news stories and information about Asians in the United States.
The 21st Century Americanism survey was conducted to study (1) the multidimensional nature of American identity (“Americanism”); (2) resentment among Whites toward immigrants, Latinos, and Asians, fueled by perceptions that these groups violate the cherished norms that constitute American identity (“symbolic nativism”); (3) how perceptions of discrimination affect the process of “becoming American” among ethnic minorities (“reactive ethnicity”); and (4) the relationships among these issues and public opinion on policies that address ethnic change. The data collection began in July 2004 and was completed by October 2004.