Americans Are Embracing Diversity

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New public-opinion research conducted by the Center for American Progress and PolicyLink and funded by the Rockefeller Foundation indicates that Americans are much more open to diversity and supportive of steps to reduce inequalities between racial and ethnic groups than is commonly portrayed in politics and the media. The Latino Decisions study included close to 3,000 Americans who shared their opinions on diversity, inequality, the role of government and opportunity in America.

The results of this survey indicate that Americans are more likely to see opportunities from rising diversity than challenges. They understand the problems associated with inequality in society and strongly support new steps and investments to reduce these inequalities. Although differences remain between growing populations of color and whites, in terms of openness to diversity and support for new policies to close remaining social gaps, many of these distictions are more idealogical in nature and less about race and ethnicity.

Following are some key findings of the study:

Americans vastly overestimate current and future levels of diversity.
The median estimate given for the current percentage that people of color comprise (49 percent) indicates that the typical American thinks we are nearly a majority people-of-color nation already (the correct figure is about 37 percent). And their prediction for 2050–62 percent–considerably exceeds the Census Bureau’s 53 percent projection.

Americans overall are not pressing the panic button about rising diversity in society. By and large, positive sentiments about opportunities from rising diversity tend to outweigh negative concerns about rising diversity.

Economic growth and greater innovation and competiveness for businesses are the greatest opportunities associated with rising diversity. Sixty-nine percent of respondents agree that “a bigger, more-diverse workforce will lead to more economic growth” and that “diverse workplaces and schools will help make American businesses more innovative and competitive.”

Americans strongly support a new equity agenda designed to reduce racial and ethnic inequality. More than seven in 10 Americans (71 percent) support “new steps to reduce racial and ethnic inequality in America through investments in areas like education, job training and infrastructure improvement,” compared to just 27 percent who are opposed. This includes 63 percent support among white people. In addition, 54 percent of Americans say such steps would help the economy overall, compared to 10 percent who think it will hurt the economy (white poll respondents are 49 percent to 11 percent on the same question).

There is strong support for proactively reducing inequality. Along with the general openness to rising diversity expressed by most Americans, the study finds strong support for new steps to reduce racial and ethnic inequality through investments in education, job training and infrastructure improvement. A full 71 percent of Americans support such an equity agenda, and 61 percent say they would be willing to invest “significantly more public funds to help close the [the] gap in college graduation rates” between black and Latino students and white students.

“The Rockefeller Foundation is proud to support this important survey to explore the country’s views on our changing demographics,” said John Irons, managing director of Foundation Initiatives at The Rockefeller Foundation. “With our growing diversity comes a great deal of opportunity–if we harness it effectively. The poll that we are releasing…gives us much to be optimistic about, with the majority of Americans seeing incredible opportunity as a result of our country’s rising diversity and actually viewing it as a critical factor to our nation’s economic growth. We hope that this poll sparks increased conversation and ultimately increases action on both the local and national policy levels to ensure that growing diversity equals growing opportunity, as well.”

Vanessa Cardenas, vice president for Progress 2050 at the Center for American Progress, commented, “This poll clearly shows that Americans not only understand the long-term effects of inequality–given our demographic changes–but also embrace diversity as an asset that will bring innovation and make us more competitive. Contrary to what you hear in the news, Americans clearly support taking proactive steps to close disparities so that our entire economy benefits. And they believe in something that many in Congress don’t seem to grasp: that investing in our future today will benefit all Americans down the road.”

“This poll validates what many of us have been saying for a long time–that America’s demographic sghift is an asset in the global economy,” said Angela Glover Blackwell, founder and CEO of PolicyLink. “Our nation’s economic fate is tied to the success of the communities of color that are contributing nearly all of our growth. People all over the country are clearly ready for an equity agenda to invest in our future; it’s time our politicians listened.”

Study Methodology

The study findings were based on a live interviewer telephone survey conducted from June 11 to July 10, 2013, among 2,943 American citizens nationwide. The sample included cell phones and landlines. Overall results reflected a margin of error of +/-1.8 pecent.

About Latino Decisions

Latino Decisions was a joint effort between Pacific Market Research, a nationally known research firm, and doctors Gary Segura and Matt Barreto, leading Latino politics scholars and professors at Stanford University and the University of Washington, respectively. Both Dr. Segura and Dr. Barreto are nationally respected researchers with a deep understanding of Latino culture and advanced quantitative research skills. Their expertise, coupled with Pacific Market Research’s logistical capabilities, makes Latino Decisions a leader in the field.

Source: Center for American Progress
Article appears in the Winter 2014 edition of Hispanic Network Magazine.

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