Most Think Increased Diversity Will Reduce Racial And Ethnic Tensions

May 23, 2012, 2:00 PM GMT+0

(Week of 5/19/2012) Non-Caucasians became the majority of all births in the United States last week, and the future United States will be increasingly diverse racially and ethnically. Most Americans are optimistic about what that will mean for American society: 62% in the latest Economist/YouGov Poll say increasing diversity will reduce racial and ethnic tensions.

But many in the growing minority population aren’t so sure. 48% of African-Americans and 50% of Hispanics fear the country’s changing demographics will result in more rather than less racial and ethnic tension. Conservatives are conflicted: 45% of them say increasing diversity will result in more racial and ethnic tension; 55% think it will reduce tensions.

The changing demographics of American births will affect the U.S. in the future. What about reducing tensions and improving race relations today? Majorities — and in some cases overwhelming majorities — think there are many actions that could reduce racial tension.

Two proposals in particular get the most positive reactions: 78% of Americans say making sure children receive the same quality of education wherever they live and encouraging immigrants to learn English would be helpful in improving race relations. Additionally, 73% believe in the benefits of promoting the values of hard work and self-reliance.

Smaller majorities believe actions like strengthening and enforcing laws against racial discrimination, lowering the income gap between rich and poor, promoting racial fairness in the court system, and restricting the number of immigrants would also help. Only "ending affirmative action" was thought of as helpful by fewer than half of respondents.

Several of the items provoked huge differences between the parties. 72% of Democrats thought lowering the income gap between rich and poor would be helpful in improving race relations, while only 27% of Republicans agreed. 68% of Republicans — but only 32% of Democrats — believed ending affirmative action would help.

Blacks and Hispanics are far more likely than whites to think that restricting immigration and ending affirmative action would make no difference in improving racial relations. In the case of ending affirmative action, many blacks believe that such a policy change would actually cause race relations in the country to deteriorate. Blacks and Hispanics are also far less likely to believe that promoting the values of hard-work and self-reliance would improve race relations in the U.S.

Economist/YouGov poll archives can be found here

Photo source: Press Association