The Melting Pot: Americans value cultural flexibility

September 20, 2016, 2:42 PM UTC

Americans overwhelmingly prefer cultural flexibility over maintaining exclusive traditions, and most also think it is OK for members of the majority to adopt aspects of minority culture

Marc Jacobs became the latest designer to fall foul of shifting norms over the adoption and borrowing of aspects of other cultures when he put three white models into multicolored dreadlocks for New York Fashion Week. Jacobs was criticized for putting white models into dreadlocks, as opposed to using black models when he featured dreadlocks. Initially Jacobs defended the photos, before eventually apologizing. 

YouGov's research shows that most Americans are fans of cultural flexibility as opposed to maintaining cultural traditions without adopting new practices. Only 15% of Americans think that it is best if people maintain their cultural traditions without adopting new ones, while 67% say that it is best if people mix and match culture and traditions from different sources. Support for maintaining cultural purity does not differ much between different groups, though men (22%) and black Americans (21%) are the most likely to say that people should not adopt new cultural traditions.

The most controversial aspects of cultural appropriation almost always surround incidents where members of the majority adopt aspects of minority cultures. On this issue a slim majority of Americans (53%) say that it is OK for members of the majority to adopt aspects of minority culture, while 19% say that it is inappropriate. Responses to this differ according to race, while just over half of white Americans (52%) and just under half of black Americans (46%) say that this is appropriate, two-thirds of Hispanic Americans (66%) say that the adoption of parts of minority culture by the majority is acceptable. 

Nearly two-thirds of Americans (65%) say that in their own families their traditions come from multiple sources, with only 26% saying that their family traditions are all from one source. 

Full survey results available here.