That wasn't statistically different from the last time the Next America Poll measured this issue in October 2012; at that point, 55 percent of adults rejected that statement, while 42 percent agreed. Both of those results show a shift toward greater tolerance since spring 2009, when the Pew Research Center tested the question. At that point, a slight 51 percent to 43 percent majority said that newcomers threatened American traditions.
Yet the question of immigrants' cultural impact — in contrast with their economic effect — continues to divide Americans across racial, educational, generational, and partisan lines. In the new survey, whites, particularly the older and blue-collar whites at the core of the modern Republican electoral coalition, expressed much more discomfort than other groups did about the cultural impact of immigrants.
The College Board/National Journal Next America Poll, conducted by Princeton Survey Research Associates International, surveyed 1,272 adults ages 18 and older from Oct. 14-24, in English and Spanish, through landlines and cell phones. It includes oversamples of 245 African-Americans, 229 Hispanics, and 107 Asian-Americans; the poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.9 percentage points for the overall sample, with larger error margins for the subgroups. The poll is one component of National Journal's Next America project, which examines how changing demography is changing the national agenda.
Not surprisingly, the poll found that the fastest-growing immigrant groups overwhelmingly reject the notion that newcomers are threatening American traditions. Asian-Americans disagreed with that statement by a resounding margin of 71 percent to 25 percent, and Hispanics dismissed it by 67 percent to 31 percent.
African-Americans, the poll found, also rejected the idea by a comparable 65 percent to 33 percent. That continued a major shift in opinion among blacks: Support for the idea that newcomers undermine American values has steadily fallen among African-Americans from 62 percent in 2009 to 47 percent in 2012 to only one-third now. (The belief that newcomers are undermining American values among Hispanics never reached nearly as high, but has also declined from 42 percent in 2009.)
Whites, though, remained closely divided on the question in the new survey, with 47 percent agreeing that newcomers are threatening American customs and values and 50 percent disagreeing. That's a modest shift toward acceptance from 2009, when a 52 percent majority of whites saw newcomers as a threat while only 43 percent disagreed. (Compared with last year, the results show little change among whites; at that point, 45 percent endorsed the statement and 54 percent rejected it.)
This narrow overall split masks sharp cleavages among whites that follow familiar political lines. Consistently, groups central to the GOP coalition expressed much more unease about the ongoing demographic change than other elements of the white community.