American enough? Attitudes toward immigrants, patriotism, and nationalism




Pelc, Noelany

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The United States (U.S.) has fostered powerful bonds, strengthening a collective identity to country and compatriots. Recent political and immigration events have challenged beliefs about what it means to be an American and who should be included in its cultural practices. Although there has been significant literature published on the nature of nationalism, patriotism, and in-group and out-group identification in other fields, less research has explored the complex interactions of numerous demographic variables on the perception of American identity from a psychological perspective. Participants completed a demographic questionnaire, the Blind and Constructive Patriotism Scale (Schatz, Staub, & Lavine, 1999), Nationalistic Attitude Scale (Kosterman & Feshbach, 1989), Right-Wing Authoritarianism (RWA) Scale (Zakrisson, 2005), Social Dominance Orientation (SDO) Scale (Pratto, Sidanius, Stallworth, & Malle, 1994), American Identity Measure (Schwartz et al., 2012), and the Measure of Fear-Based Xenophobia (Veer et al., 2013). As predicted, politically conservative participants born in the U.S. reported higher levels of fear-based xenophobia, while politically progressive participants with low levels of Right-Wing Authoritarianism, fear-based xenophobia, and Social Dominance Orientation endorsed higher levels of sociocultural competence. Consistent with predictions, those with high levels of Right-Wing Authoritarianism, fear-based xenophobia, Social Dominance Orientation, uncritical patriotism, and those who identified as U.S-born., were more likely to object to immigrants participating in traditionally-U.S. rituals, although responses were tempered if hypothetical immigrants were said to respect America’s institutions and laws, identify as Americans, and speak English. Unexpectedly, results linked higher nationalistic attitude scores, identifying as non-White, and having a low-to-mid-SES with a stronger sense of American identity, while linking high levels of RWA to lower levels of American identity. Counseling psychologists should conceptualize how people integrate multiple cultural identities within the U.S. across the lifespan, experience national identity as protective or exclusionary, and manage acculturative stress. This study’s findings inform our understanding of out-group derogation, social justice advocacy individually and nationally, and multicultural competence in a changing nation (Sehgal et al., 2011; Stuart, 2004). Implications for theory, research, practice, and training were detailed.



Group Threat Theory, Immigration, National Identity, Nationalism, Out-Group Derogation, Patriotism