Debates over what it means to be a “true” American, Australian, German or other nationality have often highlighted the importance of a person being born in a particular country. But contrary to such rhetoric, a Pew Research Center survey finds that people generally place a relatively low premium on a person’s birthplace. Only 13% of Australians, 21% of Canadians, 32% of Americans and a median of 33% of Europeans believe that it is very important for a person to be born in their country in order to be considered a true national.
There are some exceptions – Hungary (52%), Greece (50%) and Japan (50%) – where about half the public considers birthplace to be very important. But in other nations – Germany (13%), Australia (13%) and Sweden (8%) – very few people make a strong connection between the locale of one’s birth and national identity.
These are the findings from a cross-national poll by Pew Research Center, conducted in 14 countries among 14,514 respondents from April 4 to May 29, 2016.
While many in the countries surveyed are open to those born elsewhere being part of “the nation,” acceptance comes with certain requisites. Majorities in every country surveyed say it is very important to speak the dominant language to be considered truly a national of that land. This includes a median of 77% in Europe and majorities in Japan (70%), the U.S. (70%), Australia (69%) and Canada (59%).
In addition, sharing national customs and traditions is very important to many people’s sense of “who is us.” Just over half the public in Canada (54%) and roughly half the public across Australia (50%) and Europe (a median of 48%) links adoption of local culture to national identity. Somewhat fewer than half of Americans (45%) and Japanese (43%) make that connection.
The survey also asked about the link between religious affiliation and national identity. About a third (32%) of people in the U.S. believe it is very important to be Christian to be considered truly American. This contrasts with 54% of Greeks who say this, but only 7% of Swedes.