Pew Tracks Partisan Split Over ‘Openness to World’

A recent Pew Research survey shows a sharp partisan divide on whether we should welcome or resist an open world view.

A recent Pew Research survey shows a sharp partisan divide on whether we should welcome or resist an open world view.


Americans overall embrace an openness to the people of the world, but the difference in viewpoints between Democrats and Republicans is staggering.

Pew Research found 68 percent of Americans view “openness to people from all over the world is essential to who we are as a nation.” However, that masks that 84 percent of Democrats agree with that view as contrasted to only 47 percent of Republicans.

The finding provides context for the reaction – and non-reaction – to President Trump’s controversial comment last week about immigrants from “shithole countries.”

The Pew survey, conducted last summer among 2,505 US adults, showed general agreement among all age groups and levels of education to an openness to the people from around the world. The glaring difference was between Americans who identified as Democrats or Republicans.

On a separate question, 48 percent of Republicans said openness to people from around the world could “risk losing our identity as a nation.” Only 14 percent of Democrats share that concern.

Views are somewhat less divisive over the question of increasing racial and ethnic diversity in the United States. Seventy-six percent of Democrats agree diversity will make the United States a “better place to live,” compared to 51 percent of Republicans.

The data confirms what has been obvious since 1968 in American electoral history. Following passage in Congress with Democratic majorities of civil rights and voting rights legislation, voting patterns in the Deep South switched from Democratic to Republican. That may have been accompanied by a realignment of party affiliation. Regardless, there is a clear distinction on world view and immigration between parties.

The partisan split on world view is not mirrored to the same extent by race, age or education. Younger people are the most open in their world view and older people the least open, but in both cases their openness sharply exceeds that of people identifying as Republican or conservative.

A Pew Research survey earlier last year found 64 percent of Americans viewed increasing racial and ethnic diversity as a positive. The biggest difference in the survey was among Democrats (76 percent) and Republicans (51 percent).

It would be fair to speculate that Trump understands these numbers and calibrates his statements and tweets to appeal to his political base that questions openness to the world and fears the upshot of increasing diversity in America.

More curious is the blind spot in many Americans’ world view to the economic benefit to the United States of global trade and capital flows.