Poll: The American melting pot isn't quite so melty anymore

We cover enough immigration issues here on a regular basis that it’s probably a good idea to keep a finger on the pulse of where America stands on related issues. The latest poll from Scott Rasmussen dips a toe into questions related to this subject, specifically how voters feel about both legal and illegal immigration, assimilation and the whole concept of America as a “melting pot.” It’s an old concept, embedded in America’s cultural identity, but these numbers indicate that there’s been a gradual shift going on. For one thing, the public definitely appears conflicted over whether or not this country is “open to allowing immigrant culture to help shape and influence American culture.”

Just 35% of voters believe that most Americans today are open to allowing immigrant culture help shape and influence American culture. A ScottRasmussen.com national survey found that 37% don’t believe that’s true and 27% are not sure.

If true, that would reflect a significant change from American history. Date released earlier showed that 64% believe our nation has a unique culture created and shaped by blending many varied and separate cultures over the years.

Republicans, by a 43% to 28% margin believe most Americans are still open to that concept. Democrats are evenly divided–35% believe most Americans welcome cultural influences from immigrants while 38% do not. Among Independent voters, however, just 28% believe those influences are welcomed by most Americans. Forty-six percent (46%) disagree.

Given how the two parties are generally portrayed in the news media, it’s rather counterintuitive to see that a larger percentage of Republicans believe “most Americans” are open to the concept of allowing immigrants to help shape and influence American society than Democrats. But then, this is one of those survey questions (the kind I believe produces better results) where they ask the respondent what they think “most people” feel.

We’ve discussed this here before, but if you ask someone if they personally are open to a particular thing they’ll most often give you the answer that they think “sounds right.” For example, if you’re looking for data on antisemitism and you ask someone if they are okay with a Jewish person becoming president, moving in next door or what have you, they’ll almost certainly say yes even if they don’t really mean it. But when you ask them if “most of their neighbors” are good with that idea, they’ll often say no. In other words, of course, I’m not antisemitic, but a lot of these other people around here…

Delving into the crosstabs, we find some other interesting contradictions along the same lines. For example, one question was a choice between describing America as “a white culture derived from our English heritage” or, alternatively, “a unique culture that has been created and shaped by blending many varied and separate cultures.” By a more than three-to-one margin (64/21) people said America was a unique blend of varied cultures.

But when asked whether it was more important for incoming immigrants to “assimilate and become part of American culture or to retain their own unique cultural heritage” the numbers almost completely flipped. 61% thought it was more important to assimilate while only 39% said it was more important to retain their cultural heritage.

When asked if it was still accurate to describe America as a “melting pot,” a whopping 78% felt that it was either very or at least somewhat accurate. But at the same time, less than half agreed with the statement that “most immigrants desire to become part of the broader American culture.”

This is a particularly fascinating survey that takes a deep dive into American feelings about immigration and culture. If you browse through all the crosstabs you might be surprised by what you find.

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