Staying Put, Though

Even before 9/11, detractors of the U.S. liked to deride Americans as a xenophobic people. After the attacks, adherents of this view warned that Americans would become overtly hostile to cultures other than their own. It’s hard to find evidence that this has happened, though. If anything, the past year revealed the extent to which multicultural tolerance has become a civic religion for Americans in general—not just for the denizens of universities and urban hipster districts. In an Ipsos-Reid World Monitor poll fielded last month, 56 percent of adults said they’ve become more likely in the past year “to respect cultures that do not share your values.” Just 27 percent said they’ve become less likely to do so. This doesn’t prevent significant numbers of Americans from looking askance at Islamic fundamentalism, as in a recent ABCNews/Beliefnet poll. But it’s noteworthy that their main objection to Islam is what they see as its intolerance of other religions, an opinion voiced by 35 percent of this poll’s respondents. In other words, they criticize Islamic culture in distinctly multiculturalist terms. Meanwhile, Americans’ tolerant attitudes don’t translate into an increased desire to see other cultures in the flesh just now. Amid heightened anxiety about safety, 66 percent of those polled by Ipsos-Reid said they’re less interested in visiting other countries than they were a year ago; 27 percent said they’re more interested in going abroad. As you can see from the chart, Americans are happy to live in this country. That may help explain why they’re content to stay within its borders until the outside world simmers down a little.