If you feel that you have read some variation on the headline above before, you are right. In fact, The Fix wrote about anxiety over the rapidly diversifying and immigrant-heavy present (and future) of the United States just yesterday. The numbers are striking.
And now, a new Wall Street Journal-NBC News poll has once again highlighted something that really cannot be ignored. And that is this: A substantial share of the Republican Party is fundamentally uneasy about the ways in which the American population is changing.
To be specific, GOP voters are split when it comes to whether the growing share of racial and ethnic minorities in the United States is a good thing.
Look closely at the chart below. On the long list of issues around which it seems that Republicans and Democrats seem to disagree is this issue. Three percent more Republicans said that this phenomenon -- a reality that is inevitable given current population trends and immigration law -- is moving the country in the wrong direction than said it was a good thing. Meanwhile, Democrats leaned clearly toward embracing this increasing diversity.
Now, a reasonable argument can be made that the polling question itself is odd. It comes about as close as possible to asking Americans to weigh in on whether or not people that already exist should exist. But reasonable people can also argue that this kind of information about the American electorate has value.
France has made a kind of secular worship of avoiding and outright forbidding certain types of data collection and even discussions about race, religion and socioeconomic patterns among different segments of its population. But the riots and religiously motivated terrorist attacks that have scarred that country in recent years reveal just how little a head-in-the-sand approach does for national unity. So, with all due respect, any argument that the question itself has no merit is itself questionable.
In the United States, here's what we do know that should really make all of us pause: Most people are inclined to answer poll questions in a way that they think is more socially acceptable -- what pollsters call the "social-acceptability bias." So pollsters spend a lot of time crafting surveys that pose questions about sensitive social topics like race, gender, religion and sexuality in ways that also test for consistency and clarity of the public's views. Still, social scientists also presume that any question that quite clearly offers the opportunity to express views that some consider bigoted will produce a kind of low count.
Understood that way, what the NBC/WSJ poll provides is yet another bit of irrefutable evidence of real trouble and discord. And it's a particular kind of trouble and discord that shows up again and again along partisan lines when the pollsters behind the survey ask about immigration, police brutality and misconduct, gay rights and, oddly, even the use of technology like smartphones. That so many more Republicans express discomfort and anxiety about the changing face of America and expanding certain rights just is not a good sign for a Republican Party trying in vain to adjust to that very same changing face.
Given the data in this poll and so many others, the reluctance of most non-white voters to embrace the GOP becomes utterly logical. So too do the suspicions that talk about changing the 14th Amendment's "birthright citizenship" and mass deportations on the GOP campaign trail is really just the first bit of deep-seated bigotry rendered visible because of Republican front-runner Donald Trump and others have begun to lift the curtain.
I wrote this yesterday, but it bears repeating here: Anxiety about the changing face of America ranks among the most futile political causes of all time. It is a naked manifestation of the biases that have always been part of this country's politics and its policies. But precisely because the American population and electorate are changing, it is a political organizing tool with a very short lifespan.