Association of "#covid19" Versus "#chinesevirus" With Anti-Asian Sentiments on Twitter: March 9-23, 2020

Am J Public Health. 2021 May;111(5):956-964. doi: 10.2105/AJPH.2021.306154. Epub 2021 Mar 18.


Objectives. To examine the extent to which the phrases, "COVID-19" and "Chinese virus" were associated with anti-Asian sentiments.Methods. Data were collected from Twitter's Application Programming Interface, which included the hashtags "#covid19" or "#chinesevirus." We analyzed tweets from March 9 to 23, 2020, corresponding to the week before and the week after President Donald J. Trump's tweet with the phrase, "Chinese Virus." Our analysis focused on 1 273 141 hashtags.Results. One fifth (19.7%) of the 495 289 hashtags with #covid19 showed anti-Asian sentiment, compared with half (50.4%) of the 777 852 hashtags with #chinesevirus. When comparing the week before March 16, 2020, to the week after, there was a significantly greater increase in anti-Asian hashtags associated with #chinesevirus compared with #covid19 (P < .001).Conclusions. Our data provide new empirical evidence supporting recommendations to use the less-stigmatizing term "COVID-19," instead of "Chinese virus."

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Asians*
  • COVID-19*
  • Humans
  • Racism*
  • Social Media / statistics & numerical data*
  • Terminology as Topic*
  • United States