Large majorities in the 21 countries where we fielded this question say being able to speak their country’s most common language is important to national identity. And majorities in more than two-thirds of these countries say speaking the language is very important. (For more on which language was asked about in each country, refer to Appendix B.)
Opinions are strongest in Hungary, Indonesia and the Netherlands, where 96% say speaking the most common language is important, and at least six-in-ten say it is very important. High shares echo this sentiment in Brazil and Kenya, where around three-quarters or more say it is very important. Even in the U.S. – where people are the least likely to place importance on speaking the most common language – nearly eight-in-ten hold this view.
Who is most likely to see language as important to national identity?
While most agree that speaking the country’s most common language is important to national identity, those on the ideological right are more likely than those on the left to say this in 12 countries. The U.S., which places the least importance on language, sees the greatest ideological difference. Conservatives in the U.S. are over 30 percentage points more likely than liberals to say speaking English is important to being truly American (90% vs. 58%).
Religious identity is also linked to views on this question. In some of the countries surveyed, members of the primary religion are more likely than those who do not belong to the primary religion to say speaking the country’s most common language is important.
Notably, there are no differences by education level or age on this question.