When it comes to key cultural issues, Americans are significantly more divided along ideological lines than people in the United Kingdom, France and Germany, according to a new Pew Research Center analysis of surveys conducted in the four countries in fall 2020.
Across 11 questions on cultural subjects ranging from nationalism to political correctness, the gap between the ideological left and right in the United States – or liberals and conservatives, in the common U.S. parlance – is significantly wider than the ideological gaps found in the European countries surveyed. In some cases, this is because America’s conservatives are outliers. In other cases, it’s because America’s liberals are outliers. In still other cases, both the right and left in the U.S. hold more extreme positions than their European counterparts, resulting in ideological gaps that are more than twice the size of those seen in the UK, Germany or France.
On issues of “belonging” or what it takes to truly be part of a country (e.g., to be “American” or “French”), those on the ideological right in all four countries are more likely than those on the left to say being Christian, speaking the national language, sharing the country’s customs and traditions and being born in the country are “very important.”
Across all four items, though, the ideological gap in the U.S. is larger than in other countries. This is often – but not always – because the views of America’s conservatives stand out. (The U.S. survey was fielded in November and December 2020, after the presidential election but before the inauguration of Joe Biden.)
For example, around a third of U.S. adults who place themselves on the ideological right (32%) say being Christian is very important for being American, but no more than 17% on the right in any other country say the same.
When it comes to the importance of being born in the country, around a third on the U.S. right (32%) think it is very important for being American, compared with no more than 24% of those on the right in any other country. Similarly, those on America’s ideological right (57%) are more likely than their counterparts in France (47%), Germany (39%) and the UK (29%) to say that sharing national customs and traditions is very important to national identity.
The pattern is somewhat different when it comes to speaking the country’s language. While the overall ideological gap is again wider in the U.S. than in the other three countries, America’s liberals are notably less likely than their counterparts in other nations to see speaking English as critical to being American. Only around a quarter of the left in the U.S. (24%) say it’s very important to speak English to be truly American, whereas at least four-in-ten of those on the left in every other country say the same about speaking their national languages.
The ideological left in the U.S. also stands out in its views of whether immigrants want to adopt the country’s customs and way of life. Around eight-in-ten Americans on the left (79%) say this, compared with around two-thirds or fewer in the other countries.
Tuesday, May 11, 2021
Polarization, Culture, National Identity
Laura Silver at Pew: