CNN Poll: Americans becoming likely to say diversity enhances culture

In the last few years, Americans have become more likely to say the country’s increasing diversity enriches the nation’s culture, even as perceptions of how others experience racial discrimination have grown more divided by partisanship, according to new findings from a CNN Poll conducted by SSRS.

More than 8 in 10 Americans (81%) say the increasing number of people of many different races, ethnic groups and nationalities in the US is enriching American culture, up from 70% in 2016 survey by CNN and the Kaiser Family Foundation. Solid majorities across party lines feel this way, including 69% of Republicans, 82% of independents and 91% of Democrats.

READ: Full poll results

But at the same time, there’s been an increase in the share who say that racial and ethnic minorities face frequent discrimination, with those figures becoming more polarized along party lines.

Overall, 44% now say African Americans face “a lot” of discrimination in society today, up 8 points since a 2015 survey conducted by CNN and the Kaiser Family Foundation. About 4 in 10 say the same for Hispanic Americans (39%, up from 30%) and 1 in 10 about Asian Americans (11%, up from 5%). Even more, 50%, say immigrants to the US face a lot of discrimination, a question new to this poll.

In every case where there is trend, partisans have moved in opposite directions compared with results from the 2015 poll. Democrats are about 20 points more likely now (72% vs. 53%) to say African Americans face a lot of discrimination in society today, while Republicans are four points less likely to do so (14% vs. 18%). A 23-point gap between Democrats and Republicans on whether Hispanic Americans face a lot of discrimination (42% among Democrats vs. 19% among Republicans) has doubled to a 46-point gap (59% vs. 13%). And a statistically insignificant four-point difference between Democrats and Republicans on the amount of discrimination faced by Asian Americans (6% vs. 2%) has grown to a meaningful 14-point one (15% vs. 1%).

Even when considering discrimination against white Americans, partisans are moving in opposite directions. Among Republicans, 18% say whites face a lot of discrimination in society today, up from 11% in 2015. Among Democrats, the share has held roughly steady (4% now vs. 5% in 2015).

These shifts along partisan lines are larger than the shift found in each racial or ethnic group. Among black Americans, for example, there’s been only a six-point increase in the share who say African Americans face a lot of discrimination, a shift that’s dwarfed by the 20-point increase among Democrats.

The survey also suggests black and Latino Americans are more apt to report that they felt their life was in danger on account of their race than they were in 2015, even as other measures of discrimination remain unchanged. Overall, 51% of blacks, 25% of Latinos and 16% of whites say that they have at some point felt their lives were in danger because of their race. That represents a decline among whites compared with 2015 (27% felt that way), but a modest increase for blacks (from 45%) and Hispanics (from 20%).

Most other measures of discrimination tested in the survey — including being denied housing you could afford, being prevented from or challenged in voting, or being treated unfairly in public places — found no significant change in incidence compared with 2015.

And the poll suggests a connection between politics and that fear. Three-quarters of Americans say that the recent tone of America’s politics and political debate is encouraging violence, with many seeing minorities or immigrants as most at risk on account of that tone.

Among those who see a risk of violence on account of politics, 26% say in an open-ended question that blacks are most at risk, 23% anyone who isn’t white, 19% say Latinos and 18% immigrants.

At the same time, President Donald Trump’s ratings for handling race relations remained negative by roughly 2-to-1 (62% disapproved while 32% approved). The issue prompts the least crossover support for the president of any tested in the survey: Among those who disapprove of the president generally, only 1% say they approve of his handling of race relations while 97% disapprove.

The CNN Poll was conducted by SSRS from September 5 through 9 among a random national sample of 1,639 adults reached on landlines or cellphones by a live interviewer. Results for the full sample have a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3.2 percentage points. The survey’s sample included oversamples of African American and Latino registered voters. Those subsets have been weighted to represent the appropriate share of the overall population, and are not over-represented in the overall results of the poll.