This book explores public opinion about being and becoming American, and its implications for contemporary immigration debates. It focuses on the causes and consequences of two aspects of American identity: how people define being American and whether people think of themselves primarily as American rather than as members of a panethnic or national origin group. Importantly, the book evaluates the claim - made by scholars and pundits alike - that all Americans should prioritize their American identity instead of an ethnic or national origin identity. It finds that national identity within American democracy can be a blessing or a curse. It can enhance participation, trust, and obligation. But it can be a curse when perceptions of deviation lead to threat and resentment. It can also be a curse for minorities who are attached to their American identity but also perceive discrimination.
Deborah J. Schildkraut is an Associate Professor of Political Science at Tufts University. She is also the author of Press "One" for English: Language Policy, Public Opinion, and American Identity.
1. Introduction; 2. The 21st century Americanism survey; 3. Defining American identity in the 21st century; 4. Policy implications of multidimensional Americanism; 5. The myths and realities of identity prioritization; 6. Does 'becoming American' create a 'better' American?; 7. Immigrant resentment: when the work ethic backfires; 8. The politics of American identity.