In an election year riveted to an unprecedented extent by changes in the nation’s demography, Americans divide almost exactly in half on whether immigration—and the nation’s increasing diversity—is making life in the United States better or worse, according to the latest Allstate/National Journal Heartland Monitor Poll.
The in-depth survey of 1,000 Americans also found that they split almost evenly on whether the nation offers children of all races an adequate opportunity to succeed. But a solid majority of respondents now rejects the notion that children from all income groups have sufficient chances to get ahead. And only small minorities of those polled say the nation is doing better at providing equal opportunity for all races, all income groups, and all generations.
Together, these responses capture some of the complex and even contradictory emotions driving the turbulent debate about the nation’s changing identity, one that is rumbling through the presidential race. The twin concerns about the impact of growing diversity and the waning opportunity for children from all income groups offer more evidence that rapid demographic change and a sustained economic stagnation have converged, producing a deeply volatile compound of anxiety.
Apart from the concern about the impact of immigration and diversity on national security, which extended broadly through society, many of these questions split Americans along clear and consistent lines of race, education, age, and party preference.
The persistence and depth of those fissures underscore the extent to which attitudes toward the demographic transformation that is rapidly remaking America have become a central fault line between the political parties. The Republican coalition is heavily dependent on the white voters most unsettled by the change, while the Democratic coalition relies mainly on the ethnically diverse and urbanized groups most comfortable with the new demographic and cultural dynamics. The one notable exception to this pattern: African Americans, a solidly Democratic constituency, express ambivalence if not outright unease about the impact of immigration and demographic change.