Giving the Huddled Masses An Ambivalent Welcome

With pious devotion to diversity having become our civic religion, it’s blasphemous to voice fear of demographic change. In the privacy of the opinion-poll confessional, though, lots of people express such qualms. A study by The Pew Research Center for the People & the Press finds Americans more likely to say the population surge of the 1990s was a bad thing (50 percent) than a good one (32 percent). That was most true of non-Hispanic whites, among whom “bad” beat “good” by 54 percent to 28 percent. (The rest said “neither” or “don’t know.”) Blacks split almost evenly (44 percent “bad,” 43 percent “good”). While headlines have highlighted the Hispanic component in the population boom, Pew’s Hispanic respondents didn’t muster a majority to praise the overall rise in numbers. Rather, 42 percent called it “good,” 35 percent said it’s “bad.” What of the fact that Hispanics are now as numerous as blacks in the U.S.? Thirty-nine percent of total respondents said this is good for the country; 26 percent said it’s bad. The poll also noted the fact that, despite a growing diversity of the U.S. population, neighborhoods tend to be racially homogeneous. Twelve percent of non-Hispanic whites said this is good for the country, as did 9 percent of blacks and 15 percent of Hispanics; 68 percent ofnon-Hispanic whites said it’s a bad thing, as did 85 percent of blacks and 78 percent of Hispanics. Whatever doubts they may have about the country’s new demographic mix, the respondents favorably compared today’s immigrants to the new Americans of a century ago (see the chart above).