In what seems like a lifetime ago now, we began the year full of ambition and resolve because 2020 represented more than a flip of the calendar. In pun-worthy comparison, 2020 -- or “20/20” -- was supposed to be the year of great vision and clarity.
But now, just two months away from year-end, we realize that the clarity we sought actually didn’t elude us -- but some of us clashed with it violently on the front lines.
The past few months have been some of the most polarizing in recent history. A global pandemic decimated the economy, and the murders of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd sparked a worldwide outcry for social justice.
America began coming to terms with its history of racism, prompting a surge in diversity and inclusion initiatives in the public and private sectors as executives sought out experts to navigate these challenging conversations within their organizations. Terms like “allyship” went mainstream, and workplaces became focus groups on equality.
In September, however, the current administration passed an executive order preventing government agencies and federal contractors from providing diversity and inclusion training to their employees.
When this executive order passed, I thought it was a setback in creating unity and a sense of pride among Americans. But I didn’t have the data to back it up until now.
We hypothesized that social unrest, the global pandemic, and the push to stifle diversity and inclusion efforts have led to a decrease in multicultural audiences’ propensity to identify with the American Identity Measure's key measures. We asked respondents to rate a series of statements regarding their American identity in August of 2019 and again in October 2020, and here’s what we found:
Black respondents experienced the sharpest drop in responding positively to the statement: I have a strong sense of belonging to the United States," moving from 67% in August of 2019 to 53% in October of this year. This is a statistically significant decrease. Asians experienced a 5% drop in affinity, from 66% to 61%, while Hispanics and non-Hispanic whites stayed relatively consistent in their sentiments.
With the increased visibility of police-related shootings of unarmed citizens, this sentiment is not surprising, as Black Lives Matter movements have increased polarization among U.S. citizens.
Collectively, U.S. consumers are less enthused about being American. Asians expressed the most significant drop in responding positively to the statement I am happy that I am an American, going from 71% in August of last year to 59% this year, a 12 point statistically considerable drop.
As the COVID-19 virus spread, Asian Americans became targets for verbal and physical assaults. This could be a contributing factor to the significant decline in Asians being happy to be American.
Lastly, feeling good about being American has dropped across the board, with Asians, again, displaying the most significant shift, from 68% to 59%. Black respondents experienced a 6% drop, and Hispanics and non-Hispanic whites, a 2% drop.
Why are these stats important? As America limps towards recovery, we must repair not only the health and economic fallout from the pandemic, but the racial fissures that scar our nation as well.
As marketers, we cannot solve the problem, but we can make significant inroads from where we sit. Marketing touches every aspect of the consumer experience. Working to improve diversity and inclusion within our workplaces allows us to bring the voices of marginalized communities to the forefront through localized, regional, and nationwide marketing campaigns that wield the power of influence.
How we use that influence is up to us. Check your vision.