2.21.19 American Democracy in Crisis: The Fate of Pluralism in a Divided Nation

American Democracy in Crisis: The Fate of Pluralism in a Divided Nation

A new PRRI/The Atlantic survey on Americans’ feelings about the health of our nation’s democratic institutions reveal significant partisan divisions over racial diversity and religious pluralism. The survey, which was released today, finds that when asked which vision of the United States they most identify with – “I would prefer the U.S. to be a nation made up of people from all over the world” or “I would prefer the U.S. to be a nation primarily made up of people from Western European heritage” – nearly half (47 percent) of Americans mostly agree with the first statement, while only nine percent of Americans mostly agree with the second statement. The report also found that despite these divisions, two-thirds (66 percent) of Americans say they feel optimistic that the country can work across both religious and racial divides. However, fifty-nine percent of Americans say they feel pessimistic about whether people who hold different political views can come together and solve the country’s problems. “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.”
PRRI Survey Shows “Distinct Racial Outlooks” Across the USA

On the release day for the latest PRRI and The Atlantic survey, Vann Newkirk of The Atlanticlooks at the “distinct racial outlooks” and differences of opinion that exist in the United States. Newkirk writes, “A strong majority of white respondents—59 percent—think that speaking English is a very important part of being American. While the majority of black and Hispanic people do think that speaking English is at least a somewhat important component of Americanness, almost a tenth of both groups think it’s not important at all, while only 2 percent of whites feel that way.” Newkirk also notes that black and Hispanic Americans are more likely than white Americans to think that that belief in God is important to American identity. Newkirk links the data to a looming question of citizenship and whether it should be asked about in the U.S. Census. The numbers, Newkirk writes, “illustrate that the so-called “demographic destiny” of America is one that would look radically different, should the country become majority non-white sometime over the next 20 or 30 years. The data indicate that white, black, and Hispanic voters have markedly divergent ideas on what exactly makes the American identity, and they also indicate that these differences are enforced and entrenched via spatial and social segregation.”
The Atlantic Looks at the Americans who “Live in a Bubble”

In a new piece of The Atlantic, published in correspondence with the latest PRRI and The Atlantic poll, Emma Green writes of a group of Americans who she says “live in a bubble.” Green writes of the portion of the country that “seldom or never meet people of another race,” (21 percent of Americans), and who have negative experiences interacting with people of other political beliefs (19 percent.) Not only are many Americans not interacting with people outside of their own inherent worldview, they believe that the nation is deeply divided over some of the most basic principles. Green writes, “77 percent said the country is divided over religion. Eighty-three percent said it’s divided over race and ethnicity. And fully 91 percent of respondents said the United States is divided by politics. Many respondents pointed to political parties and the media as two major causes of all this discord, with stark differences along partisan lines: 85 percent of Republicans said the media is pulling the country apart, versus 54 percent of Democrats.” Green concludes that these small choices about who to interact with, and when, ultimately inform a person’s worldview. “When people largely surround themselves with sameness, they may find themselves left shouting across perceived divides, unable to see their reflection in anyone who stands on the other side.”
Suburban America Experiences Rapid Growth in Chinese Population

“New York and California have long had highly concentrated Chinese populations. But surrounding suburban areas and ‘new destination states,’ such as Arizona and North Dakota, are experiencing a wave of Chinese immigrants,” reports Here and Now, a program on WBUR, Boston’s NPR news station. PRRI Public Fellow Janelle Wong appears on the show to talk about the evolution of Chinese migration patterns in the U.S. “I think what we’re seeing is a new kind of suburban Chinese enclave developing, and those are places where people don’t necessarily both live and work but where there might be a commercial or shopping area in Sugar Land, Texas for instance, or here in D.C., in a suburb called Rockville. So we’re really seeing a change in the traditional Chinatown that was really a place that was segregated by localities,” she says.
NY Times Report Claims Trump Pushed for Loyalist to Oversee Investigations

A lengthy report in The New York Times recaps a series of investigations involving President Donald Trump and outlines new allegations of potentially improper behavior. The Times reports that Trump urged then-acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker to appoint a person he believed would be a Trump loyalist to helm investigations linked to Trump in New York. Whitaker, who reportedly told friends that he was appointed to “jump on a grenade” for Trump, was unable to comply with the request. The Times reports, “Trying to install a perceived loyalist atop a widening inquiry is a familiar tactic for Mr. Trump, who has been struggling to beat back the investigations that have consumed his presidency. His efforts have exposed him to accusations of obstruction of justice as Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel, finishes his work investigating Russian interference in the 2016 election.” PRRI data show that 39 percent of Americans have a favorable opinion of Mueller, compared to 45 percent who say they have an unfavorable opinion and 14 percent who say they have not heard of Mueller. Nearly six in ten (59 percent) Democrats, compared to only 17 percent of Republicans, have a positive view of Mueller.