Contra Barack Obama, there is a white America and a black America. There are also varying versions of Latino and Hispanic Americas across different regions of the country. There are robust, enduring differences in belief across races and communities about just what America’s identity should be and how politics are experienced, and they in turn create the political reality of the country. Partisan politics arise from these differences, and exploit them. And these differences might be structural, informed by the basic fact of human geography, a geography itself built on the fact of American apartheid.
A new poll conducted by the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) and The Atlantic delves into these differences, and finds distinct racial outlooks on the most fundamental issues of American identity and values. This poll reaffirms previous findings from PRRI and The Atlantic of deep racial differences in policy preferences across a number of issues, and also confirms the picture of deep structural barriers to the ballot for black and Hispanic voters, barriers that played a role in the 2016 election and the 2018 midterms.
The PRRI/Atlantic poll, a random survey of slightly more than 1,000 people taken in December, reveals major differences among racial groups on some of the basic questions about what makes America America, and what makes Americans so. A strong majority of white respondents—59 percent—think that speaking English is a very important part of being American. The majority of black and Hispanic people do think that speaking English is at least a somewhat important component of Americanness, but almost a tenth of both groups think it’s not important at all, while only 2 percent of whites feel that way. Interestingly, black and Hispanic respondents are much more likely than whites to say that belief in God is a very important component of a specific American identity.