Poll results: Utahns welcome diversity but perceptions don't always match reality

Published: Sunday, June 24 2012 10:00 p.m. MDT

"We serve a representative cross-section of the working poor who don't have health insurance and can't afford out-of-pocket health care. A large segment of the working poor happen to be undocumented," said Dexter Pearce, executive director of Community Health Care Centers Inc. Patients at the clinic pay for services on a sliding scale.

"We are not a free clinic," Pearce said.

A number of people who responded to the Dan Jones & Associates poll indicated that a more diverse Utah had a number of benefits such as understanding other people and cultures. Several polled mentioned a wider array of cuisine.

"It brings different neighbors and I like all kinds of different neighbors," one respondent told pollsters. "If you get to know them, it really makes a difference, gives you a new way of thinking, a new paradigm. I went on a (church) mission to Spain and when I came back, I started working at the driver license office. I spoke Spanish with the Mexicans. They have really close-knit families."

Others remain unconvinced that there is an upside to the shift away from a very homogenous, English-speaking and mostly white majority.

"Well to be honest, it really bothers me when I pick up something at the store and it's in a different language. Because I feel like when we're here in the United States I feel like things should be in English," a poll respondent said.

Former state lawmaker Brian Allen, who grew up in a predominately white, working-class Millcreek neighborhood in the '60s and '70s, said the poll results reflect "a Utah that was homogenous for a very long time."

"I would like to believe and hope Utah is a little better at accepting different people. I don't know if that's true of all but in my experience we're getting better," he said.

Alvarez said he believes there will be more tolerance and acceptance over time and as Utahns become better educated about its changing demographics.

"I think a lot of it has a lot to do with a lack of information," Alvarez said.

Editor's note: This report is part 2 of "Coming to our Census," a series of reports that takes a careful look at the issues posed by the changing demographics of Utah and the nation.

Related coverage

Part 1: The changing face of Utah - Are we ready to embrace the future?
Part 3: Some solutions in place to close education gap, but is Utah willing to pay for them?
Part 4: Latino students face barriers to higher education
Part 5: Minorities face hurdles in getting health care
Part 6: Immigrants, refugees can choose which aspects of culture to assimilate

Editorial: 'Coming to our Census' series takes needed, critical look at issues posed by Utah's changing demographics

Lists: Poll responses: Benefits of a more diverse population in Utah; Poll results about Census data: Perceptions don't always match reality

KSL coverage: 'Coming to our Census'

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