AMHERST, Mass. (WWLP) – A new national poll made up of 1,000 respondents, created by the University of Massachusetts Amherst found that a number of issues facing the nation may threaten the nation’s culture and identity as midterm elections approach.

In the U.S., one-third of Americans and two-thirds of Republicans support some form of the “Great Replacement” theory, which contends that immigration is increasing the country’s identity and culture. 

“We can see why immigration is such a boiling issue,” says Raymond La Raja, professor of political science at UMass Amherst and associate director of the poll. “One-third of Americans believe that the growth in the number of immigrants in the country means that America is in danger of losing its culture and identity. But 41% of voters disagree. A remarkable 37% of voters think some elected officials want more immigration to bring in obedient voters who will vote for them, while 33% disagree. Grappling with immigration policy will continue to be among the most challenging tasks for political leadership. There is no dodging the strong emotions that drive people’s politics on this issue.”

As a result of the growing number of immigrants in the country, 60% of Republicans, and 64% of Trump voters, believe the country’s culture and identity are at risk. In contrast, 66% of Republicans and 72% of Trump voters believe elected officials want more immigration to win over loyal voters.

“A disturbing proportion of the American public endorses this right-wing conspiracy theory, which holds that politicians and corporations are conspiring to replace native-born white people with docile immigrants from developing countries,” says Jesse Rhodes, professor of political science at UMass Amherst and associate director of the poll.

Other topics that were involved in the poll were abortion, same-sex and interracial marriage, race and affirmative action, marijuana legalization and federal pardons, gun control, and student loan forgiveness.

Abortion: Since the Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision in May, the nation’s views on abortion have remained largely unchanged. The latest poll found 47% of respondents are in favor of Congress passing a law to legalize abortion nationally, an increase of two percentage points from May, while 14% are in favor of a federal ban. At 39%, the percentage of respondents who support state jurisdiction over abortion remains unchanged.

“In the wake of the Dobbs decision, a number of political pundits and commentators decried that the Supreme Court was out of step with the public on the question of abortion,” says Tatishe Nteta, professor of political science at UMass Amherst and director of the poll. “While the plurality of the public does indeed desire a federal law to protect a woman’s right to choose, close to four in 10 believe that each state should determine the legality of abortion, and this sentiment is particularly and unsurprisingly popular among conservatives and Republicans. It is no wonder that few Republicans have publicly declared their support for a national ban on abortion, as the new status quo may be viewed by some as a middle ground in the fight to protect a woman’s right to choose.”

“As the nation moves closer to Election Day,” Nteta continues, “President Joe Biden and the Democratic Party have pledged to protect a woman’s right to have an abortion and have signaled their support for efforts to pass federal laws to codify this right in the wake of the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade. With such a decision in line with the growing plurality of opinion and the 2024 presidential election on the horizon, it is highly likely that the question of federal law on abortion will remain an issue of partisan contention.”

Same-Sex and Interracial Marriage: Moreover, 90 percent of respondents support interracial marriage, but one in ten (9%) opposes interracial marriage, according to the new poll.

“There has been no change in Americans’ support for gay and lesbians being able to marry,” La Raja says. “A solid two-thirds of Americans (66%) favor same-sex marriage. By contrast, 90% of Americans support interracial marriage. As we know, that level of support did not happen overnight – I’m assuming that support for same-sex marriage will eventually reach similar levels.”

“In the wake of the Dobbs decision, a number of prominent Republican elected officials and Justice Clarence Thomas have gone on the record questioning the constitutionality of same-sex marriage and some have questioned the right to interracial marriage in the United States,” Nteta notes. “As the courts and state legislatures decide whether to challenge these rights to marriage, strong majorities of Americans across demographic divides support same-sex marriage and nine in 10 Americans support interracial marriage. If the court decides to reconsider these rights, it will likely face strong public opposition that will further erode perceptions of the legitimacy of the court.”

“Justice Thomas’s beliefs are far outside the political mainstream,” Rhodes adds. “Same-sex marriage is favored by a strong majority in every demographic group, with the exception of conservatives and Republicans. The consolidation of support for marriage equality in American society represents a profound transformation in public opinion. Just 25 years ago, support for marriage equality was a relatively fringe view. Now, belief in the right of all adults to marry is the political mainstream. These patterns suggest that the court would severely – and perhaps fatally – undermine its legitimacy if it were to attack marriage rights for these couples.”

Race & Affirmative Action: According to the UMass Poll, there is a lot of confusion among respondents on racial problems, such as affirmative action. While over three in five Americans (57%) think that racial and ethnic diversity tends to improve a country’s character, three in ten (29%) disagree, and 14% say the opposite.

Nearly half (45%) of respondents said they neither agreed nor disagreed with the statement that the country’s growing minority populations will reduce the influence of white Americans. More than one in five respondents (22%) agreed.

Less than a quarter (23%) of Republicans, conservatives and Trump supporters said that as minority groups grew, white Americans’ influence did not diminish. More than 25% (27%) indicated that racial issues were a problem.

Marijuana Legalization and Federal Pardons: Majorities of the poll’s respondents support federal marijuana legalization (56%) and pardons for federal marijuana possession convictions (58%).

“Increasingly, marijuana is becoming part of the American mainstream,” Rhodes says. “Americans strongly support recreational use of marijuana by people over 21 years of age, as well as pardons for individuals convicted of marijuana possession under federal law. This reflects both changing social mores and increasing recognition that drug possession convictions inflict severe harms, particularly on already disadvantaged communities.”

“For decades, Americans have consistently opposed the legalization of marijuana with many viewing this drug as a gateway to the use of more illicit drugs by the nation’s youth,” Nteta says. “More recent years have seen a number of states, many through the use of referendums, legalize not only the medicinal use of marijuana but the recreational use of the drug as well. With President Biden making good on his promise to address the federal status of marijuana and the impact that this has had on many of the nation’s most vulnerable communities, a clear majority of Americans express support for pardoning those convicted of possession of marijuana under federal law and for legalization of the drug by the federal government. As Bob Dylan famously sang, ‘The times, they are a changing.'”

Gun Control: According to La Raja, gun control issues are almost evenly divided among opinions in the UMass Poll.

“One of the biggest conundrums is why guns are not regulated more in the U.S.,” he says. “But our poll shows that Americans are clearly divided on much-talked-about proposals. Except for requiring background checks for all gun sales – which 78% of voters support –on other proposals the public is divided. One-third support and 32% oppose making it easier for adults to obtain a concealed carry permit, while 39% support and 40% oppose allowing teachers and school officials to carry guns in K-12 schools. We observe a possible winning margin for banning the manufacture and sale of assault weapons – with 48% in support of and 30% opposed to the idea – but there is a very vocal group of Americans who don’t want to see this kind of regulation.”

Student Loan Forgiveness: Last but not least, the UMass Poll asked respondents their thoughts on student loan forgiveness for federal borrowers. About half of those surveyed (46%) support President Biden’s recent announcement to forgive up to $20,000 of such debt, with one-third (33%) strongly supporting the plan. The plan is opposed by over one-third of respondents, with 27 percent strongly opposed.

“As legal challenges to President Joe Biden’s plan to forgive up to $20,000 in student loan debt make their way through the federal courts, a plurality of Americans express support for Biden’s attempt to ease the financial burden of millions of Americans,” Nteta says. “Unsurprisingly, this plan is most popular among Americans who currently have student loan debt (77% support) and less so with those who currently have no debt (40% support). Whether Biden’s policy will mobilize these voters to the polls will remain to be seen, but expect Biden and the Democratic Party while on the campaign trail to remind Americans of his efforts to address this crisis by using the singular power of the presidency.”

According to a UMass Amherst news release, the poll indicated that nearly three-quarters of Democratic voters (74%) and 65% of Republican voters say that they will be angry if the opposing party takes control of Congress. While three-quarters of both party’s voters say they will be afraid.

“As each national election has increasingly been viewed by the public as a zero-sum
the affair, in which one party wins and another loses, and as candidates on both sides of the
partisan divide touts each election as the ‘most important of our lifetimes,’ it is no shock
that majorities of both Democratic and Republican voters express fear and anger if the
opposing party takes control of the U.S. Congress,” says Tatishe Nteta, professor of
political science at UMass Amherst and director of the poll.