WASHINGTON — The nation's three largest minority groups — African-Americans, Hispanics and Asians — view one another with deep suspicion, though there's evidence that the divide could be breached, a new poll finds.
Billed as the first of its kind, the nationwide poll of 1,105 blacks, Hispanics and Asians found that all three groups held negative stereotypes of one another — though in some cases, a majority or nearly as many respondents rejected such beliefs.
Pollster Sergio Bendixen said the mixed results "reflect the extent to which the poll is capturing not a static picture, but a racial landscape in flux."
The poll, conducted in August and September and scheduled to be released Wednesday, was sponsored by New America Media, an association of more than 700 ethnic media outlets. It comes in the wake of the uproar over a San Francisco-based Asian weekly's decision in February to publish a column titled, "Why I Hate Blacks."
The furor over the column sparked a community forum and a decision to try to better understand the tension among the largest ethnic groups in the United States, said Sandy Close, the executive editor and director of NAM.
"It's a small opening in an otherwise convoluted, complicated landscape of 'Can we all get along?'" Close said of the poll. "We see this information as better to know — and discuss — than not to know."
The poll found that friction among ethnic and racial groups is "rooted in the mistrust that the groups harbor towards each other," as well as a belief that the other groups are "mistreating them or are detrimental to their own future."
More than seven in 10 respondents consider "racial tension" to be an important problem in the United States, and many ascribe to racial or ethnic stereotypes that Bendixen said he discovered in earlier focus groups.
For example, the poll found that 44 percent of Hispanics and 47 percent of Asians said they're "generally afraid of African-Americans because they are responsible for most of the crime."
But Bendixen noted that 50 percent of Hispanics rejected the statement, along with 45 percent of Asian-Americans.
The poll also found just over half of African-Americans feel threatened by Latin American immigrants, agreeing with the statement that "they are taking jobs, housing and political power away from the black community." But 45 percent disagreed, and only 34 percent of Asians believe Hispanics are displacing them.
But majorities of Hispanics and African-Americans believe that "most Asian business owners do not treat them with respect."
Moreover, the three groups appear more trusting of whites than of one another, with majorities in each group saying they felt "more comfortable doing business" with whites than with any of the minority groups.
The poll also showed high levels of "ethnic isolation" among the groups, with a majority of each group reporting that most of their friends, neighbors and people they associate with are of the same ethnic background.
Most also have never dated people from outside their racial or ethnic groups, but Bendixen noted that a 2006 poll of California youth done for NAM found that 65 percent had dated outside their race.
"Black and Latino and Asian meant nothing to them," Bendixen said. "They were much more likely to define themselves in terms of music and fashion. They're colorblind. We're moving in that direction, but very, very slowly."
Close said there was cause for optimism within the findings: Majorities of Hispanics and Asians credit African-Americans with leading a push for civil rights; Asian and African-Americans agree that Hispanic culture has "enriched the quality of life of all Americans," and African-Americans and Hispanics perceive Asians to be role models when it comes to family and educational values.
And majorities in each group believe "they should put aside their differences and work together" on issues.
A majority of African-Americans and significant percentages of Hispanics and Asian-Americans gave poor grades to the ethnic media that cover the communities — and paid for the survey. More than half of African-Americans surveyed called the coverage of racial tension in their community by the ethnic press "irresponsible." The mainstream press was also cited as irresponsible.
The poll of 1,105 African-Americans, Asian-American and Hispanic adults was conducted during the months of August and September. It carries a margin of error of 5 percentage points.