August 4, 2017

Most Americans view openness to foreigners as ‘essential to who we are as a nation’

For a large majority of Americans, the country’s openness to people from around the world “is essential to who we are as a nation.” In a new Pew Research Center survey, 68% say America’s openness to foreigners is a defining characteristic of the nation, while just 29% say “if America is too open to people from all over the world, we risk losing our identity as a nation.”

The belief that openness to people from around the world is essential is widely shared across most demographic groups. However, Democrats and younger people are considerably more likely than others to hold this view, according to the national survey, conducted June 27-July 9 among 2,505 adults.

Among Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents, an overwhelming share (84%) thinks America’s openness is essential to who we are as a nation. Republicans and Republican leaners are divided: 47% say America’s openness is essential, while 48% say being too open carries with it the risk of losing our identity as a nation.

Conservative Republicans are more likely than moderate and liberal Republicans to express concern that openness is a threat to the nation’s identity. About half (51%) of conservative Republicans say this, compared with 41% of moderate and liberal Republicans.

Overwhelming majorities of both liberal Democrats and conservative and moderate Democrats say America’s openness to people around the world is essential to who we are as a nation. But liberals are particularly likely to say this (91%, compared with 79% among conservative and moderate Democrats).

Although majorities across age groups believe that openness to foreigners is essential to who we are as a nation, this view is more prevalent among younger people. About eight-in-ten (81%) adults younger than 30 say this, compared with about six-in-ten (61%) of those ages 50 and older.

There are only modest racial and ethnic differences in these views: 66% of whites think America’s openness to foreigners is essential to who we are, and 74% of blacks and 72% of Hispanics share the same opinion.

Similarly, majorities across educational groups view America’s openness to foreigners in positive terms. Roughly eight-in-ten adults with a postgraduate degree (81%) say that America’s openness is essential to who we are as a nation, as do 74% of those with a four-year degree. A smaller majority of those without a bachelor’s degree (64%) say the same.

A Pew Research Center survey from earlier this year found that a majority of Americans also see the nation’s racial and ethnic diversity positively. In February, 64% said an increasing number of people from different races, ethnic groups and nationalities in the U.S. made the country a better place to live, compared with 29% who said increasing diversity made no difference and 5% who said it made the U.S. a worse place to live. The share with a positive view of the nation’s racial and ethnic diversity was up 8 percentage points from last August, when 56% said this.

In the earlier survey, partisan differences in opinions about diversity were similar to the current gaps in views of whether America being open to people from around the world is essential. About three-quarters of Democrats and Democratic leaners (76%) said greater diversity made the U.S. a better place to live, compared with about half of Republicans and Republican leaners (51%).

Note: Full topline results are available here (PDF).

Topics: U.S. Political Parties, Political Attitudes and Values, Race and Ethnicity, National and Cultural Identity

  1. is a research assistant focusing on U.S. politics and policy at Pew Research Center.

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  1. Anonymous2 weeks ago

    Diversity causes more conflict and division.
    The elites know this.

    Even a Liberal phd guy admitted to several key problems in having diverse multicultural societies.
    Putnam was his name if I remember.

    If America wants immigrants (up to the people I guess),
    but at least solve the illegal immigrant problem.

    Wanting to reduce immigration is not racist by itself.

  2. Greg Gilbert2 weeks ago

    But data shows our prosperity is determined by both our environment and our genes and thus who resides in the country impacts our prosperity.
    I’d be fine with having somewhat open immigration, I just want society to stop being science deniers on the subject and recognize uncomfortable truths about human prosperity. At least then we could make informed decisions. Is that too much to ask?

    1. Anonymous6 days ago

      Regarding the idea that genes have something to do with prosperity, I suggest considering an important science principle that “correlation does not equal causation.” Even if there is a correlation, this by itself by no means proves that prosperity was due to having the right genes. Certainly an intelligent person born in North Korea will have a disadvantage in getting rich compared a person like Donald Trump who was born in a capitalist country from relatively wealthy parents. Moreover, some of the smartest people are not rich because they’re not greedy and would rather enjoy other aspects of life than chasing after money all the time.