TAGS: AsiaAttitudesCitizenshipCultureEast AsiaPrejudicePsychologyPublic OpinionResearchSingaporesocietySoutheast AsiaStereotypes


Since late 2012 I’ve been working on a project that looks at possible differences, both in terms of severity and type, of prejudice directed towards different immigrant groups in Singapore.

We’ve done a couple of studies, sampling both undergrads and members of the wider community. Our research assistants knocked on a lot of doors, and in a place like Singapore where people are pretty guarded about their opinions on “sensitive” topics, getting our response rate is no mean feat.

Fast forward three years and the findings have finally been accepted for publication, although they likely won’t be in print for another five or six months. It’s nice to get these findings out to a wider audience, especially since I believe applied, regional work like this is deserving of a wider audience, but the delays can be a bit frustrating. Quite a lot has changed since mid 2013, and now the findings will finally be out there I’m left wondering if we’d see similar results now.

So what’s the gist of our findings? Our results suggest that Singaporeans do differentiate between immigrant groups, and that Chinese immigrants (i.e., people from mainland China) are viewed the most negatively on pretty much all dimensions, including prejudice, stereotyping and perceived threat. There’s also some evidence that different immigrant groups are associated with different stereotypes and threat profiles (e.g., Chinese immigrants stereotyped as being cold and incapable, Westerners being stereotyped as being warm and capable), but it’s also true that prejudice is to some extent unified. This means  that if an individual is prejudiced towards one group, it’s highly likely he or she will also dislike other immigrant groups.

To me these findings are pretty valuable/interesting. They suggest that ethnic similarity is not a protective factor when considering how members of a host culture will react to an immigrant group. PRC immigrants are racially and culturally the most similar to Singaporeans, yet they’re clearly the target for the most prejudice. The big question then is WHY. Why would a host culture express more prejudice towards an immigrant group with whom they have more in common? What it is about perceptions of Chinese immigrants that might drive this effect?

I’m currently writing up some findings that might shed light on this issue. Hopefully I’ll be able to get them out before 2017.

In the meantime, the forthcoming paper is available on my publications page.