What does it mean to be an American? For social scientists, this question is an important barometer of political attitudes. The way people answer can indicate their level of support for public initiatives relating to immigrants and minority groups, such as bilingual education, affirmative action, and racial profiling in the war on terror. Yet despite the important implications for public policy, data on this subject is limited and dated.
With support from the Russell Sage Foundation, Deborah Schildkraut of Oberlin College will update research in this area by conducting a nationally representative survey that will provide generalizable insights about the relationships among national identity, immigrant resentment, ethnic identity, and policy preferences. She will examine the demographic factors that shape people's ideas about what it means to be an American. She will then look to see if one's ideas about Americanism exert a greater influence on policy preferences than other factors such as one's income or education.
Schildkraut's survey will ask respondents to consider more policy areas than previous studies. Unlike existing surveys, which did not appropriately address the public opinion of minority groups, this research will target a representative sample of Americans that will allow for useful comparisons among the views of Blacks, Latinos, Asians and Whites. Finally, this study will examine changes in attitudes about national identity since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.
Reports and Publications
- "Americanism in the 21st Century: Public Opinion in the Age of Immigration"
- A brief analysis of the survey's results, written by Deborah Schildkraut
- Schildkraut, Deborah. 2007. "Defining American Identity in the 21st Century: How Much 'There' is There?" Journal of Politics. 69 (3): 597-615. (PDF)
- A dataset of the survey results can be accessed here.