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Immigrants Less Supportive of War

May 05, 2003|Teresa Watanabe | Times Staff Writer

U.S. immigrants from Asia, Latin America and the Mideast are less supportive of the recent war with Iraq than the broader American public and more worried that it will lead to terrorism and economic instability, according to a poll by three California-based organizations.

The survey of 1,000 people, conducted in 11 languages, also revealed deep differences among immigrants, with Vietnamese the most supportive of President Bush and his war efforts and Pakistanis the least. Latin Americans were substantially more worried than Asians that the military campaign was seriously harming the nation's economy.

"They're critical, concerned and fearful, but in general they don't condemn the U.S.," said Sergio Bendixen of Bendixen & Associates, which conducted the poll.

The poll represents growing efforts to survey immigrants, who are often excluded from English-language public polling. Such efforts are particularly crucial in California, where nearly 40% of residents speak English as a second language, according to Sandy Close of New California Media, a consortium of ethnic media organizations that co-sponsored the poll with the USC Annenberg School for Communication's Institute for Justice and Journalism.

The poll on Iraq was conducted between April 16 and 24. The margin of error ranged from plus or minus 4.5 percentage points for Asians to plus or minus 7.1 percentage points for Latin Americans.

With the exception of Vietnamese respondents, all immigrant groups were less supportive of the war in Iraq than the general public. A recent Los Angeles Times Poll, for instance, found that 77% of Americans surveyed supported the war. But among immigrants, support fell at or below 50% among Chinese, Indian, Pakistani, Arab and Latin American respondents.

Poll director Bendixen said the results illuminated how immigrant experiences appear to explain the diversity of opinions even within each ethnic group, such as Asians.

For instance, 85% of Vietnamese respondents, for instance, supported the war, overwhelmingly approved of Bush and believed that the war would improve U.S. relations with the Arab and Islamic worlds. Filipinos also expressed high levels of support for Bush and his handling of the war.

By contrast, only 40% of Chinese surveyed supported the war, and large majorities feared that it would increase terrorism and worsen relations with the Arab and Islamic worlds. The majority disapproved of the president, registering the highest rate of opposition among all individual communities surveyed, including Arabs and Muslims.

The Vietnamese tend to back Republicans and their policies because of the perception that they are aggressive against communism, which many migrants fled in harrowing journeys after the fall of Saigon, said Ngo Nhan Dung, editor of the influential Nguoi Viet newspaper in Westminster.

In contrast, many Chinese immigrants who used to be strongly anti-Communist and therefore Republican are growing more liberal, helping to account for their widespread skepticism of Bush and his war policies, according to David Lee, executive director of the San Francisco-based Chinese American Voter Education Committee, which assisted in the poll.

Critical ethnic media coverage helps account for more skepticism among many of the immigrants, including Latinos, who supported the war by a 50% margin, said Bendixen, whose firm specializes in Spanish-language polling.

The poll found that 81% of Latino respondents were very or somewhat worried that the military action was seriously harming the U.S. economy, compared with 53% for Asians and 63% for Middle Eastern respondents. Bendixen said such fears were grounded in the experience of many Latinos who lost their jobs after the Sept. 11 attacks.

The poll found that support for the war was the lowest among Pakistanis, at 33%, and those identifying themselves as Muslims, at 36%. Those two groups were also the most likely to feel more fearful of U.S. law enforcement and government authorities since the war began, and to question Bush's rationale for striking Iraq.

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