VANCOUVER -- A new poll shows a disturbing trend has emerged in British Columbia over the last three months, coinciding with the arrival of COVID-19 in the province.

Twenty-four per cent of respondents of East or South Asian descent said they had been the target of racial slurs or insults.

“To have it at 24 per cent with these two groups certainly suggests that there’s a lot of people out there who are dissatisfied with the way things are going and they are taking it out on those who look different than them,” said Mario Canseco, head of polling firm Research Co.

Only seven per cent of people of European descent said they had been the target of racially motivated abuse over the same period of time.

The poll surveyed 1,600 British Columbians between May 8 and May 17 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 2.5 percentage points.

“It’s definitely not a situation that you want to see and I had to go back and recheck the numbers. I thought maybe there’s something wrong with these calculations, maybe there’s something wrong with the way the whole data set is working,” said Canseco. “I went back and checked it several times and it’s still 24 per cent of South Asian and East Asian residents say, ‘Yes, this happened to me.’ It was very disheartening.”

The numbers are disheartening, but not surprising according to some Vancouverites CTV News spoke to on Robson Street Thursday.

“I personally haven’t experienced racism recently. I definitely have throughout my lifetime,” said Alice Huang.

She went on to say that she has heard from many friends and family members who have been targeted by racial abuse over the past few months.

“It’s such a hard topic to deal with and when someone tells you a story that’s so personal to them and they’re being very vulnerable and opening up to you, it really takes immense empathy for you to relate to them and to understand their experiences,” Huang said.

Others said they were surprised the numbers were so low.

“It’s surprising to me because I would think it’s a lot higher than that. I’m surprised to hear that it’s one in four,” said Vesa Shushka. “I also think it probably has something to do with Trump labelling it as the China virus.”

In late May, Vancouver police reported a spike in anti-Asian hate crimes during the pandemic, with 29 investigations opened since the beginning of 2020, compared to just four over the same period in 2019.