A study done by UC Berkeley’s Othering and Belonging Institute, or OBI, and VietRISE revealed prevailing beliefs among nonpartisan Vietnamese residents in Orange County on topics related to generational cohesion, economic inequality and the role of the United States government.
The study was co-authored by Joshua Clark, political participation analyst at OBI, and Miriam Magaña Lopez, research and policy analyst at OBI. The research brief was published on the OBI website Feb. 22. To gather data, the researchers surveyed more than 1,500 Orange County residents, more than 200 of whom identified as Vietnamese, according to the brief. Nonpartisan Vietnamese Americans between the ages of 40 and 70 were also recruited for focus groups, where in-depth discussions were conducted surrounding topics such as the government, economy and community, the brief adds.
The brief notes that nonpartisan Vietnamese Americans were recruited due to this subgroup’s beliefs being “frequently left out” of community discussions and media representations.
“The dominant political story about Vietnamese Americans is that there is partisan polarization by generation – that the young are overwhelmingly progressive … and older community members are overwhelmingly conservative,” Clark said in an email. “But as with any such simplistic story, this is based on a bit of reality, and a good deal of obfuscation.”
The brief explains that through the focus groups, researchers found participants expressed hopes that the Vietnamese community will learn to bridge the gaps that have been created between partisan groups, refugees from the Vietnam War, more recent Vietnamese immigrants and the Vietnamese community with other ethnic communities.
Additionally, participants showed concerns toward racism and civic engagement, although their understanding of such issues “lacked a structural or systemic understanding,” according to the brief.
“I myself was surprised that we did not hear study participants express anti-tax views, nor the opinion that government social spending was too high,” Clark said in the email. “To the contrary, they affirmed that they consider it government’s job to step up more to serve those who are least well off.”
The brief concludes with a set of “salient lessons” for community and social justice organizations to better advance economic and racial justice, civic engagement and belonging within this demographic.
The brief encourages organizations to facilitate cross-ethnic group discussions and not use partisan language to avoid prompting this demographic’s mistrust of politics. Additionally, the brief suggests the older Vietnamese community is ready to “extend their trust and faith” to younger Vietnamese Americans.
“There is an exceptional opportunity in older members’ good faith and commitment to unity for young leaders to meet them where they are, and articulate visions that bridge their distinct identities and entry points for action and change-making,” the brief states.