The Politics of Belonging

The perceptions of national identity vary sharply among and within countries, especially between urban and rural areas. “A Pew Research Center survey finds that people generally place a relatively low premium on a person’s birthplace: Only 13 percent of Australians, 21 percent of Canadians, 32 percent of Americans and a median of 33 percent of Europeans suggest that it is very important for a person to be born in their country in order to be considered a true national,” explains Bruce Stokes, director of global economic attitudes for the Pew Research Center. He notes that exceptions include Hungary, Greece and Japan, where about half find “place of birth” to be very important. Large majorities in all countries surveyed agree that speaking the dominant language and sharing national customs are necessary for being part of a nation, though there was a pronounced generational divide. Stokes concludes that it may be a “hopeful sign” that respondents do not regard place of birth, something impossible for immigrants to change, as a requirement for a sense of belonging. – YaleGlobal

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