Political News

Poll asks what makes a 'real American?'

Posted December 3, 2018 2:25 p.m. EST

— The trait most important to being a "real American" is to believe in treating people equally, according to a Grinnell College poll released on Monday. Offered a list of traits, 90% of respondents said treating people equally is very important, followed by taking personal responsibility for one's actions (88% said that was very important), accepting people of different racial backgrounds (81%), and supporting the US Constitution (80%).

The least important traits were being a Christian (55% said it was not important), having been born in America (49%), and having lived in America most of one's life (45%).

Republicans and Democrats have different views on what makes a "real American," however. The top three traits for Republicans include taking responsibility for one's actions (94% very important), supporting the US constitution (93%), and treating people equally (90%). Democrats agreed in seeing equal treatment and personal responsibility as very important traits, but included accepting people of different racial backgrounds in their top three (88% said it was very important).

The biggest difference between the parties is among those who rate speaking English as very important to being an American. Sixty-two percent of Republicans believed speaking English was very important to being a "real American" compared to only 29% of Democrats and 44% of independents.

Despite the belief that treating everyone equally makes a real American, most Americans think there's still a lot of discrimination against certain groups. Fifty-eight percent said that Muslims experience a lot of discrimination living in the US, followed by LGBT people (52%), and African Americans (52%). The least likely groups to experience discrimination, according to the poll, were white men (45%, virtually no discrimination), atheists (37%), and Christians (35%).

Two-thirds of Americans said that it's not okay to express feelings of hate in a public manner, including through social media, while the other quarter said it's okay to do so. There aren't large partisan divides on this issue, but young people were much more likely to feel it's acceptable to express hate publicly (35% of those under 35 years old) compared to 28% of those 35-54 and 18% of those 55-64 and 65 and over.

The Grinnell College National Poll was conducted November 24-27, 2018 by Selzer & Company of Des Moines, Iowa. It surveyed 1,000 US adults ages 18 and over, with a margin of error of the full sample at +/- 3.1 percentage points.