Tolerant Americans: Looking at the new World Values Survey

I’ve been enjoying the Globe and Mail‘s interactive presentation of the latest World Values Survey (WVS). If you’re unfamiliar with the organization, the WVS is comprised of an international network of social scientists who carry out surveys in 97 countries, offering representative opinion from close to 90 percent of the Earth’s population. The questions are grouped around the broad themes of beliefs, goals, and values, and some of the results have been surprising.

For example, only 13.2% of ‘xenophobic’ Americans would prefer not to live near immigrants or foreign workers, while 43.2% of the the ‘progressive’ French would feel the same.

A similar divide holds when citizens were asked if they would mind having people of a difference race as neighbors. Only 4.1% of Americans said so; that number rocketed to 26.8% in France.

What about living near people of a different religion? Americans don’t care — only 2.6% had an objection to it. In France, the religiously-concerned make up almost a third of the country (30.3%).

I’m well aware that France has been in the midst of a passionate debate over immigration and national character, and that the heat from that no doubt accounts for some of the numbers (France appears to be an outlier in Western Europe). Nevertheless, Americans are often portrayed as racists and xenophobes, especially among some of the sophisticates of Europe. For this reason, the WVS is a helpful corrective.

Here’s the Globe and Mail feature — it’s incomplete, but an enjoyable diversion for those of us who love sorting data. If you’re really feeling ambitious, you can click here for the official site and the exhaustive results.

Brian Saint-Paul


Brian Saint-Paul was the editor and publisher of Crisis Magazine. He has a BA in Philosophy and an MA in Religious Studies from the Catholic University of America, in Washington. D.C. In addition to various positions in journalism and publishing, he has served as the associate director of a health research institute, a missionary, and a private school teacher. He lives with his wife in a historic Baltimore neighborhood, where he obsesses over Late Antiquity.

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