A new poll shows many Americans are afraid of immigrants for a completely nonsensical reason
It’s giving QAnon.
At this stage in our country’s rapid descent into wherever it is countries go when so much shit hits so many fans, it’s fairly safe to say that the Overton Window on any number of once stable-seeming issues has been kicked so far apart that there’s just a big gaping hole where a wall used to be. In no small part, the expansive maw where once the window stood is the product of a right wing agenda that understands how potent the drip drip drip of normalization can be when it comes to pushing that extreme from the fringe through the mainstream and into the realm of codified law.
Take, for instance, a just-released AP-NORC poll showing fully 1/3 of the country believes a cabal of politicians are bringing immigrants into the United States for the express purpose of changing the makeup of the electorate for their own gains. And nearly as many Americans also expressed concern that, as the poll states, “an increase in immigration is leading to native-born Americans losing economic, political, and cultural influence.”
If this all sounds vaguely familiar in a “where have I heard this sort of stuff before?” way allow me to point you to the 2018 Pittsburgh Synagogue mass shooting, where a neo-nazi conspiracy believer murdered 11 worshipers whom he accused of “bring[ing] invaders in that kill our people.” It is, in other words, a more politely stated version of the “great replacement theory” of White Nationalism — the sort of thing that has animated bigoted violence on the far right for years, but which is now firmly a part of mainstream Americana, thanks to the shameless idea-laundering of conservative personalities like Tucker Carlson and Laura Ingram.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, then, this only slightly less rancorous description of what is essentially a neo-Nazi talking point is significantly more prevalent among Republican respondents to the AP-NORC poll, with 36% to 27% of GOP-to-Democratic survey participants suggesting they feared the “loss of influence” of native-born Americans. However, as the AP notes it’s respondents who scored highly on a “validated scale” of “conspiratorial thinking” who are most likely to ascribe to this sort of bigoted nativism.
“Despite partisan concerns over immigration, high conspiratorial thinkers are more likely than Republicans generally to believe in Replacement Theory (42% vs 26%) and express concern the election system discriminates against white Americans (38% vs 25%),” the study’s authors concluded without, perhaps, a necessary caveat that conspiratorial thinking has become a core precept of Republican voters at large.
The good news is that the AP-NORC poll, conducted this past December from among 4,173 respondents, show that the majority of the country still believes that diversity strengthens, rather than weakens, the fabric of American society.