Since May, WNYC’s The Brian Lehrer Show teamed up with The Harris Poll on a series called “The Eights“, which offers a brief history of America’s culture wars since 1948. Today’s series finale discussed the results of a new Harris Poll survey conducted with The Brian Lehrer Show that uncovers issues dividing Americans in 2018 such as immigration and diversity.
On the topic of immigration, the poll found that 60% of white Americans said reducing the number of immigrants and refugees will have a positive impact on our country, while 15% of Hispanics say it will have a negative effect; African Americans, however, were evenly split on the subject.
Today’s findings reflect old sentiments. “When we go back at Harris to look at this historically, we see many of the same things arising in the 70s and in the 80s,” said Harris Poll executive editor, Michael D’Antonio. “Americans were really ambivalent and actually negative on allowing refugees from Vietnam from coming in the 70s and majority thought Jimmy Carter handled the Cuban immigration crisis poorly.”
Also on the show, MSNBC contributor/analyst Charlie Sykes emphasized the importance of thought leadership. Historically, faith and political leaders made the case for immigration, he explained. “Presidents didn’t demonize immigrants,” he said, alluding to comments from the Trump presidency describing immigrants as rapists and animals. Even social conservative leaders like Ronald Reagan were known for their open-borders stance when it came to immigration. Over time, Sykes said, two different kinds of right-wingers have emerged: the nativist right known for their blood-and-soil rhetoric and the more aspirational perspective as embodied by the likes of Reagan.
When it came to how alienated Americans feel, the study found that people feel less alienated the closer they get to home. When people were asked about whether individuals running the country cared about what happened to them, 78% agreed; but when they were asked if they felt left out of things going on around them, only 46% agreed.
Another divisive issue was social justice movements as 47% of people said more social justice movements would have a negative impact on the country.