Pew Research study examines lawmakers’ social media engagement with Asian Americans

Asian Americans sworn in at Asian Pacific American Institute of Congressional Studies ceremony. (Courtesy: APAICS)

A recent Pew Research Center analysis of more than five years of congressional social media activity finds that lawmakers are increasingly mentioning Asian Americans on Facebook and Twitter.

This report examines how often – and in what context – lawmakers mention Asian Americans in their public-facing communications on social media.

To conduct this analysis, the research center collected every Facebook post and tweet created by every voting member of Congress between Jan. 1, 2016, and April 5, 2021. It includes official, campaign and personal accounts.

Six major origin groups – Chinese, Indian, Filipino, Vietnamese, Korean and Japanese Americans – who comprise the vast majority of Asians in the U.S. account for the overwhelming majority of references in the posts.

According to the report, from 2016 to 2019 lawmaker mentions of Asian Americans on social media followed a relatively predictable pattern.

Members of Congress collectively mentioned this group fewer than 2,000 times in each of these years. But, a surge in Anti-Asian violence caused a surge in the posts.

In the month of March 2021 alone – before the fatal shooting of six Asian women and two other people in the Atlanta area on March 16, as well as several other prominent incidents of anti-Asian violence – lawmakers posted over 2,500 references to Asian Americans, a figure that is larger than the yearly totals for any year prior to 2020.

The study also finds that Democratic lawmakers have produced the vast majority of congressional posts mentioning Asian Americans. In every year dating back to 2016, they have accounted for a minimum of 83% of such posts.

More recently (2020-21), Republican lawmakers have produced just 391 of the 7,263 such posts from members dating back to January 2020 (Democrats produced the remaining 6,872).

From Jan. 1. 2016, to April 5, 2021, Indian-Americans, who comprise of 20% of the total Asian American population were mentioned in 16% of posts that referenced Asian American origin groups.

A majority of the recent posts mentioned or expressed concern about racism, discrimination, xenophobia or violence toward Asian Americans.

While some 33% of all posts explicitly mentioned terms such as “COVID,” “pandemic” or “coronavirus.”

An example of such post by Rep. Ro Khanna, D-Calif. in April 23, 2020 – “Viruses don’t have an ethnicity. There’s no place for this kind of blatant, senseless racism anywhere, and particularly not in CA-17.” ‘Multiple Asian-owned businesses targets of vandalism in San Jose

According to Pew Research Center,  beyond posts directly mentioning Asian Americans, there is a broader universe of lawmaker social media posts that mention Asian countries without any reference to Asian Americans specifically, and Republicans make up the majority.

Of the just over 30,000 posts since the beginning of 2020 that met this criteria, more than 22,000 of them (75% of the total) were posted by congressional Republicans.



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