College Undergraduate Research Electronic Journal
2nd June 2020
White or Foreign? Differentiating Perceptions of the Racialization of National Identity in Canada, the United States, Australia, and New Zealand
Past literature has established that often in a white-majority society, a national label is associated with the white population more than people of other ethnic origins. Canada, the United States, Australia, and New Zealand share many historical and institutional similarities, making them valuable comparative cases. While scholars have researched national identity to varying degrees in these countries, the gap remains in comparative analysis of perceptions of national identity. This thesis first analyzes comparative public opinion data to establish differences in the degree to which national identity is racially-exclusive in the case countries. Second, it compares historical immigration policy, multiculturalism policy and programs, and ethnic activism in each country to understand what causes varying levels of racialization. The data analysis reveals ‘American’ as the most racially-inclusive national identity and ‘Australian’ as the least. The thesis also finds that presence (or lack) of ethnic activism can best explain the variation between the four countries, while the institutional variables were inconsistent with the variation. These results contribute to understandings of the drivers of national identity construction and lend support to arguments in the wider public opinion literature that social movements are more influential for opinion formation than legislation. The surprising result that multiculturalism policy was not mapped with more inclusive national identities also provides policymakers with insight on the effectiveness of different policy pathways to promote inclusion. Additionally, given the extensive negative consequences of exclusion documented in psychology literature and for civic engagement, these results illuminate pathways towards more inclusive societies.