Most Americans do not live in a totalizing bubble. They regularly encounter people of different races, ideologies, and religions. For the most part, they view these interactions as positive, or at least neutral.
Yet according to a new study by the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) and The Atlantic, a significant minority of Americans do not live this way. They seldom or never meet people of another race. They dislike interacting with people who don’t share their political beliefs. And when they imagine the life they want for their children, they prize sameness, not difference. Education and geography seemed to make a big difference in how people think about these issues, and in some cases, so did age.
One of the many questions the Trump era has raised is whether Americans actually want a pluralistic society, where people are free to be themselves and still live side by side with others who aren’t like them. U.S. political discourse is filled with nasty rhetoric that rejects the value of diversity outright. Yet, theoretically, pluralism is good for democracy: In a political era when the vast majority of Americans believe the country is divided over issues of race, politics, and religion, relationships across lines of difference could foster empathy and civility. These survey results suggest that Americans are deeply ambivalent about the role of diversity in their families, friendships, and civic communities. Some people, it seems, prefer to stay in their bubble.