After “The China Virus” Went Viral: Racially Charged Coronavirus Coverage and Trends in Bias Against Asian Americans

Darling-Hammond S.,
Michaels E.K.,
Allen A.M.,
Chae D.H.,
Thomas M.D.,
Nguyen T.T.,
Mujahid M.M.,
Johnson R.C.
Document Type
Source Title
Health Education and Behavior
SAGE Publications Inc.


On March 8, 2020, there was a 650% increase in Twitter retweets using the term “Chinese virus” and related terms. On March 9, there was an 800% increase in the use of these terms in conservative news media articles. Using data from non-Asian respondents of the Project Implicit “Asian Implicit Association Test” from 2007–2020 (n = 339,063), we sought to ascertain if this change in media tone increased bias against Asian Americans. Local polynomial regression and interrupted time-series analyses revealed that Implicit Americanness Bias—or the subconscious belief that European American individuals are more “American” than Asian American individuals—declined steadily from 2007 through early 2020 but reversed trend and began to increase on March 8, following the increase in stigmatizing language in conservative media outlets. The trend reversal in bias was more pronounced among conservative individuals. This research provides evidence that the use of stigmatizing language increased subconscious beliefs that Asian Americans are “perpetual foreigners.” Given research that perpetual foreigner bias can beget discriminatory behavior and that experiencing discrimination is associated with adverse mental and physical health outcomes, this research sounds an alarm about the effects of stigmatizing media on the health and welfare of Asian Americans. © 2020 The Author(s).

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Index Keywords

Asian American; Betacoronavirus; Coronavirus infection; human; mass medium; nomenclature; pandemic; racism; stereotyping; United States; virus pneumonia; Asian Americans; Betacoronavirus; Coronavirus Infections; Humans; Mass Media; Pandemics; Pneumonia, Viral; Racism; Stereotyping; Terminology as Topic; United States