Why are non-whites so libertarian?
By Scott Sumner
I hope the title of this post got your attention. If not, I hope the content will make you rethink some assumptions. Let’s start with immigration: Are whites or non-whites more supportive of freedom to migrate? I could not find any direct poll results on that question, but I did discover that non-whites are more likely to believe that immigration is good for America. That makes me think they are also probably more likely to support immigration, although I concede that’s a slightly different question. Here are the results of an October 2017 Pew Survey:
Overall, 83% of Hispanics say immigrants strengthen the country because of their hard work and talents. This compares with 70% of blacks and 60% of whites who say this.
Interestingly, support for immigration has been rising rapidly in recent years. That’s especially true among Democrats, but also to a lesser extent among Republicans. Immigration is increasing seen as part of America’s national character (a point I made in another recent post.)
Views about immigrants and the nation largely parallel attitudes about whether openness to people from all over the world is an essential aspect of the national character: 68% say openness to foreigners is essential to “who we are as a nation,” while 29% say that if America is too open to people from all over the world “we risk losing our identity as a nation.”
Perhaps it’s no big surprise that Hispanics have a positive view of immigration, but the findings for blacks is a bit more surprising, as some economists claim this group is adversely affected by immigration of low-skilled workers from Mexico and Central America.
Even more surprising is the view of non-whites on trade. This is from a November 2017 survey of views on trade:
Minorities in the United States express systematically more positive attitudes toward international trade than whites. This finding is puzzling in part because minorities are more economically vulnerable than Whites. They are more likely to experience unemployment, and their position in the national income and education distribution makes them an unlikely source of trade support. Nonetheless, we find systematically greater support for globalization among Americans who are ethnic and racial minorities. Because this pattern had not been previously noted, we used Chicago Council surveys to explore whether this was a recent phenomenon.
The study finds that whites were more supportive of trade during the 1990s, but non-whites became more supportive in the early 2000s, and continue to be more supportive today.
In addition to freedom to migrate and freedom to trade, another important freedom is the ability to build a home where you chose to live. Indeed zoning restrictions may now be the single most harmful of all American government regulations. So what do non-whites think about the idea of building more housing in urban areas? These results were from a September 2017 California survey:
I suspect that non-whites would support regulatory changes making it easier to build more housing in urban areas. However I can’t prove it, as this survey question is rather vague. If anyone finds a better survey question, please let me know.
Why am I writing a blog post on the views on non-whites with respect to a variety of very important freedom issues? Because I frequently encounter commenters who believe that whites, and especially Anglo-Saxon whites, are freedom lovers. These commenters don’t want immigration from cultures that lack the long Anglo-American cultural tradition of liberalism. They fear it will change America.
I suspect that there are issues (perhaps the 2nd Amendment?) where whites still do poll more libertarian. But these three issues are not small ones; indeed they are some of the most important freedom issues facing our society. And if I’ve interpreted the results correctly (which is certainly debatable), non-whites seem to be more pro-growth and more libertarian on all three issues. I find that to be quite interesting.
Update: One reason why I’m pretty confident about my interpretation of the poll results is that most people are not intellectuals who draw fine distinctions. How they answer one question is a pretty good indication of how they answer another question on the same general topic. If they think immigration is good for America, they probably support it.
PS. How do you say “Dame la libertad o dame la muerte!” in English?
HT: Razib Khan