Most Americans are unaware of AAPI history, recent study shows

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SAN DIEGO (FOX 5/KUSI) — As a way to recognize the contributions of people of Asian and Pacific Islander descent in the state of California, May was recently declared by Governor Gavin Newsom as Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month. Other parts of the country have expanded on it, referring to May as Asian American, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander (AANHPI) Heritage Month.

However, a new survey conducted by Savanta Research found that a majority of Americans are largely unfamiliar with key events that happened in the history of the country involving people of Asian descent.

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Additionally, it found that more than half of all Americans have limited knowledge about Native Hawaiians or Pacific Islanders.

The methodology behind the research included a survey of about 6,300 respondents across the U.S. over the age of 16. The survey was conducted between January and March, and is meant to build upon consecutive years of research. The full methodology can be found in the report here.

According to the study, 55% of Americans could not name an event or policy related to Asian Americans. Most of the people who struggled to give an answer belonged in the younger demographic, between the ages of 16 to 34.

Of those who did answer, 15% recalled the incarceration of Japanese Americans while 3% said “blamed for COVID-19,” “Pearl Harbor,” and “Other WWII events.” Two percent said “building railroads.”

Only 17% of Americans expressed they were familiar with the 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act, which was passed by Congress and implemented a 10-year ban on working immigrants entering the country from China.

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The survey also showed many Americans are unaware of more recent events impacting Asian Americans, including last year’s mass shooting in Monterey Park and Half Moon Bay (43%) and the Atlanta spa slayings in 2021 (39%).

When it comes to celebrities, more than half of all Americans could not name a famous Asian American, the study said. Nine percent said Jackie Chan and 5% said Bruce Lee. Other respondents were able to name Kamala Harris (2%), George Takei (1%) and Michelle Yeoh (1%).

Half of Americans also could not name a famous Native American or Pacific Islander, according to the survey. Of the people who were able to respond, the most common answers were The Rock/Dwayne Johnson (16%) and Jason Momoa (8%).

The results were determined using the STAATUS Index, which stands for “social tracking of Asian Americans in the United States.” The annual survey launched in 2021 to help researchers understand how perspectives of AANHPI people have changed over time.

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