Pew Research Center designed this focus group and interview-based study to better understand Asian Americans’ diverse perspectives on the intersection of religious identity and ethnic culture. The analysis presented in this data essay is intended to provide insight into Asian Americans’ cultural connections to religion and is not meant to be an exhaustive representation of experiences on these topics or of specific demographic groups.

About the groups

We conducted 20 focus groups and five one-on-one interviews with more than 100 Asian American adult participants from April 15 to July 19, 2023. Eight in-person focus groups were conducted in Chicago, Illinois. The remaining 12 focus groups and five interviews were conducted remotely. Each person was offered an incentive of $100 to participate. In-person focus groups were approximately two hours long, virtual focus groups were about 90 minutes, and one-on-one interviews were approximately one hour in length. All focus groups were conducted in English.

Focus groups were organized according to participants’ religious identity, level of religious commitment, ethnic origin group and immigration status. There were five Muslim groups, three Buddhist groups, three Hindu groups, two Protestant groups, two Catholic groups and five religiously unaffiliated groups. Four of the one-on-one interviews were with Asian American Muslims, and one was with an Asian American who is religiously unaffiliated. Participants represented nine different Asian origin countries and were selected to maximize gender and age diversity.

Focus groups had an average of six participants, with a minimum requirement of three participants and a maximum of nine.

The focus groups were conducted by Research Support Services Inc. (RSS) for Pew Research Center and were reviewed by Sterling IRB (internal review board) for human subject research. The interviews were conducted by Dr. Eman Abdelhadi, assistant professor in the Department of Comparative Human Development at the University of Chicago.

Topics covered

The questions asked during the focus groups and interviews were designed to explore participants’ perspectives on religion, as well as their relationships with religion, in various ways. Conversations generally included:

  • Discussion of hypothetical scenarios involving the religious lives of individuals (participants were shown photographs of individuals and were asked to rate, on a scale of one to five, how sure they are that each person is affiliated with a certain religion);
  • Discussion and debate about what is considered “essential” to various religions;
  • The participants’ responses to related questions, such as “Do you consider yourself close to any of the following traditions?” and “Do you identify with any of the following traditions?” as well as discussion about the differences between these questions;
  • Discussion of the role of religion in participants’ Asian origin countries, families and communities; and
  • Discussion about whether the participant believes it is important for future generations to have ties to their religion.

Data analysis

Focus group conversations were video recorded, and one-on-one interviews were audio recorded. All conversations were transcribed and checked for transcription errors. To analyze the focus group and interview transcripts, Center researchers utilized ATLAS.ti, a qualitative data analysis and research software.

Researchers analyzed the transcripts through multiple rounds of coding. Initially, separate codes were applied to different sections that covered participants’ discussion of religious beliefs, practices, knowledge, identification and other experiences, respectively. Researchers then worked together to identify other themes for later rounds of coding such as: participants’ reasons for being religious; details of what they said makes someone religious or not religious; and instances in which they said there were unclear boundaries between religion and the culture of their country of origin. The overlap between religion and culture was a prevailing theme of the conversations and the corresponding codes.

Quotations in the data essay have been lightly edited for grammar, spelling and clarity.