Examining the past and present of American identity

As July 4th approaches, we look at how Americans see themselves and the legacy of immigration in the country.

The author(s)

  • Sarah Feldman Data Journalist, US, Public Affairs
  • Catherine Morris Data Journalist, US, Public Affairs
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June 29, 2021- As July 4th approaches, we look at how Americans see themselves and the legacy of immigration in the country. Plus, we check back with what parents are planning on doing with their kids, and we look at what pandemic services people want to see stick around.

Past and present of American identity:

Other issues—like childcare and navigating a post-pandemic world—continue to evolve for Americans:

A nation of immigrants?

With July 4th just around the corner, America’s past and identity come into focus. Yet, not all Americans have the conception of what America really is, particularly around facets of that identity where partisan opinion tend to diverge.

Where immigrants fit into the national sense of self is a newly divisive issue.

According to recent NPR/Ipsos polling, three in four Democrats feel that immigrants are an “important part” of our American identity. By comparison, only half of Republicans feel the same, 30-points behind Democrats.

While these divisions are large, they weren’t always there. Back in 2018, 71% of Republicans believed that immigrants are an important part of the American identity, only 12-points behind Democrats.

Looking back into the past

Just under half of all Americans say they have not attempted to connect with their family’s past, either by conducting research on their ancestry, or visiting grave sites of their ancestors, or visiting their ancestors’ home country.

Among those who have racial differences emerge, with white Americans more likely to say that they or a relative have done DNA testing to better understand their ancestry or researched their ancestry online. They are also more likely to have visited their ancestors’ grave sites.

This divide alludes to America’s complicated relationship with race and slavery. Historic archival information about Black or enslaved people is not always available, and many gravesites of the enslaved went unmarked or have been lost or covered over.

Pride in family history

While Americans might approach exploring their ancestry differently, a majority across racial and ethnic lines say they are curious about their family’s history. Fewer than one in ten say they are disinterested.

Around one in three white and Black Americans say they feel connected to and proud about their ancestry, while two in five Hispanic Americans say the same. Black and Hispanic Americans are also more likely to say they feel excited about their families’ history, at one in three, compared to one in five white Americans.


After examining race and its connection to American identity past and present, we take a look at how people are re-adjusting to the world.

Urban parents are sending their kids out of the house this summer

Parents in cities around the U.S. are more likely to allow their children to do out-of-home activities this summer than parents in rural or suburban areas, polling from the Ipsos Consumer COVID Tracker finds.

Topping the list of activities that many cooped up parents will allow their children to do, includes visiting a museum, amusement park, and movie theater, with around 70% of urban parents planning on doing this, about 10-points ahead of their non-urban counterparts.

Significant differences also persist in childcare. Urban parents report willingness to access those services, like babysitting, nannying, and sending their children to day or overnight camp at higher rates than parents who don't live in a city. These discrepancies may be related to the income gaps that persist based on where people live, with urban areas more likely to be home to wealthier Americans.

Post-pandemic, younger people want to see food and grocery deliveries stick around

About three in five adults under 35 want to see food delivery services stick around as life opens back up. That’s 23 points ahead of the over 55 crowd, who are less enthusiastic about keeping the expanded delivery services.

Though, there’s one thing many people, regardless of age, want to keep around: outdoor dining. About half of people across each age group want to see expanded outdoor dining options stick around as in-person dining and shopping surges.

Right now, many state governments and individual businesses are trying to maintain services some have come to expect while weighing whether the exceptions made to do business during the pandemic are worth keeping around.

The author(s)

  • Sarah Feldman Data Journalist, US, Public Affairs
  • Catherine Morris Data Journalist, US, Public Affairs

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