Political Socialization and Reactions to Immigration-Related Diversity in Rural America*


  • *

    Direct correspondence to: Jim Gimpel, University of Maryland, Department of Government, 3140 Tydings Hall, College Park, Maryland 20742, jgimpel@gvpt.umd.edu


Abstract We explore the roots of tolerance for immigration-related diversity from a political socialization perspective. Among rural adolescent respondents, we find that attitudes toward immigrants are surprisingly variable along a number of important dimensions: anticipated socioeco-nomic status, family longevity in the community, and employment in agriculture. The extent to which an adolescent's family is anchored in the community proves to be an important determinant of diversity attitudes. Tolerance for diversity is also contextually conditioned by the percentage of immigrants settled in a neighborhood, and the percentage of the local population employed in farming. Interestingly, lower income youth are more welcoming of immigration than the affluent, particularly when they live near them. Without quite labeling these rural adolescent populations racially “progressive,” the youth we encountered mostly expressed the norms of tolerance and civility essential for avoiding unpleasant intergroup conflict.