The Great Political Divide Over American Identity

Are you an American?

Chances are your answer to this question depends on whether you have (or could get) a U.S. passport. That is one way many people think about what it means to be American. Another way is to think less literally and more culturally. Being an American, in this sense, can conjure up images of apple pie, baseball and summer picnics. It may evoke ideas about working hard and being rewarded, or treating people equally and extending everyone opportunities. We teach these notions to schoolchildren and hold them up as essentially American.

But the 2016 election made clear that there’s not universal agreement on what it means to be an American, with restrictive views centered on ethnicity and religion playing a major role in the Trump campaign. And yet trends in public opinion suggest that the nation as a whole is moving away from an exclusionary notion of American identity. CONT.

Lynn Vavreck (UCLA), New York Times