A new PRRI/The Atlantic survey of American attitudes about the health of our nation’s democratic institutions reveals that partisan divisions over racial diversity and religious pluralism have Americans split. This survey discovered that despite these divides, Americans remain optimistic about the country’s ability to work together.
Nearly half of Americans generally support a racially and ethnically diverse vision of the country. When asked to align themselves with a vision of the United States, 47 percent of Americans say they “would prefer the U.S. to be a nation made up of people from all over the world.”
“Divergent attitudes about the very desirability of ethnic and religious pluralism are one of the key drivers of partisan polarization today,” said PRRI CEO Robert P. Jones. “Compared to Americans who identify with the Republican Party, Americans who identify with the Democratic Party are twice as likely to affirm a preference for an ethnically diverse country and are four times as likely to prefer a religiously diverse country.”
Sixty-five percent of Democrats, compared to 29 percent Republicans, mostly prefer a country with racial and ethnic diversity.
Despite these divisions, two in three (66 percent) Americans say they feel optimistic that the country can work across both religious and racial divides.
Forty-five percent of Democrats and more than a third of Republicans (35 percent) say they would be unhappy if their child married someone from the opposite political party. A stark gap has emerged on this question over time: in 1960 only four percent of Democrats or Republicans said they would be displeased if their son or daughter married someone of the opposite party.
Although Americans feel the country is divided on racial lines, they also feel that diversity is a strength.
The vast majority of Americans agree that believing in individual freedoms, such as freedom of speech (91 percent), respecting American political institutions and laws (90 percent), accepting people of diverse racial and religious backgrounds (86 percent), and being able to speak English (83 percent) are somewhat or very important to being American.
The survey also finds that 74 percent of Americans interact with people of different racial and ethnic backgrounds in their workplace – more than any other social gathering place by nearly 30 points.