POLL: Americans split over meaning of being American

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What does it mean to be an American? A new survey reveals that Democrats and Republicans have very different ideas about this country’s identity.

Survey results from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research found that “Republicans are far more likely to cite a culture grounded in Christian beliefs and the traditions of early European immigrants as essential to U.S. identity.”

Democrats, on the other hand, relate more to the country’s history of welcoming people from around the world and are proud to be part of a tradition of offering refuge to those who have been persecuted.

Most disturbing, however, is the fact that 7 out of 10 people — regardless of party affiliation — said that they believe the country is losing its identity.

Democrats, Republicans, and Independents can also agree about some elements that make up this country’s identity.

According to the survey’s results, Americans want “a fair judicial system and rule of law, the freedoms enshrined in the Constitution, and the ability to get good jobs and achieve the American dream.”

When asked about which characteristics can be seen as inherent to America, the disagreement was palpable: “About 65 percent of Democrats said a mix of global cultures was extremely or very important to American identity, compared with 35 percent of Republicans. Twenty-nine percent of Democrats saw Christianity as that important, compared with 57 percent of Republicans.”

The poll also revealed that Democrats are almost three times as likely as Republicans to say that “the U.S. should be a country made up of many cultures and values that change as new people arrive.” Many more Republicans said that it’s essential that immigrants should assimilate into American culture.

“Republicans overwhelmingly viewed immigrants who arrived in the past decade as having retained their own cultures and values rather than adopting American ones,” said the report.

The survey also found that Americans have different ways of viewing perceived threats to our way of life. “Democrats coalesce around a fear of the country’s political leaders, political polarization, and economic inequality. Most Republicans point instead to illegal immigration as a top concern.”

However, Americans’ fear of influence from foreign governments was pretty much equal.” About 4 in 10 Democrats and Republicans alike viewed the issue [of Russian meddling into U.S. politics] as extremely or very threatening,” said the report, noting that this is a surprise because “calls for an investigation into President Donald Trump’s possible ties to Russia have largely come from Democrats.”

One political science professor, Patrick Miller, who studies partisanship and polling at the University of Kansas explained that the results “reflect long-standing differences in the U.S. between one camp’s desire for openness and diversity and another’s vision of the country grounded in the white, English-speaking, Protestant traditions of its early settlers.” He pointed out that competing views of American identity between the two groups have been contentious throughout history.

“Our sense of identity is almost inseparable from the subject of immigration because it’s how we were built,” Miller said. “Given what we are and how we’ve come about, it’s a very natural debate.”

H/T: Associated Press

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