American Identity and Public Opinion: How What it Means to be
an American Influences Language Policy Preferences
Working Paper #14, Summer 2000
This paper builds upon previous research that has shown how notions
of what it means to be an American can influence policy preferences.
The author does so by analyzing how several conceptions of American
citizenship, namely liberalism, civic republicanism, and ethnoculturalism,
affect support for declaring English the official language and
printing election ballots only in English. Using focus group research,
the paper shows that these three conceptions provide a useful,
though incomplete, framework for describing Americans' perceptions
of their national identity and for examining how those perceptions
influence opinions. Further, the author argues that the direction
in which conceptions of national identity influence preferences
will depend on the particular aspects of identity that people
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