Facebook most popular way for young Irish-Americans to explore identity
Seven out of 10 surveyed said they would be interested in getting an Irish passport
Mary Robinson: respondents’ most admired living Irish people, apart from their own family members, were the former president, also Bono and Liam Neeson, followed by Gerry Adams and Conor McGregor. Photograph; Dara Mac Dónaill
Seven in 10 younger Irish-Americans say they would be interested in getting an Irish passport, while more than two-thirds believe it’s important their children should also identify as Irish-American, according to a new survey.
The online survey, conducted by Amarach Research via the website Irish Central, surveyed 1,368 adults under the age of 45 across the US, with concentrations in New York, California, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Florida and Illinois. Only 8 per cent were born in Ireland and 57 per cent were third generation or further removed. Some 59 per cent had chosen Irish American identity over other possible ethnic identities in their families.
Of those surveyed, 25 per cent had checked their ancestry with a DNA test, and half had visited Ireland within the last five years.
When it came to exploring their Irish-American identity and heritage, Facebook and other social media platforms were much more popular than traditional emigrants’ organisations such as the GAA or the Ancient Order of Hibernians
Eighty-five per cent said they used social media to keep in touch with Ireland, with the vast majority favouring Facebook ahead of other networks. After Irish Central and Facebook, irishtimes.com was their most visited media source for Irish news.
Ninety per cent expressed a desire to participate in Irish cultural or sporting activities, with music ranked as the most popular, well ahead of literature and the Irish language.
The most popular Irish film cited was The Quiet Man, followed by PS I Love You and The Wind that Shakes the Barley, while U2, the Dropkick Murphys and the Chieftains were the most popular music groups, and Guinness, Kerrygold and Jameson were the top Irish brands.
Democrats outnumbered Republicans by more than two to one in the survey, a figure that may be disputed in some quarters.
While there is little empirical data on the party affiliations of Irish-Americans as a discrete group, polling after the last presidential election indicated Donald Trump beat Hillary Clinton by five percentage points among white Catholics.
When asked what single word encapsulated Ireland, the most popular choice was “community”, followed by “beautiful”, “majestic” and “friendly”. Interestingly, “community” was also popular when people were asked for a word to describe “America”, along with “diverse”, “chaotic” and “turmoil”.
The survey was managed by Glucksman Ireland House NYU and the UCD Clinton Institute, with financial support from the Department of Foreign Affairs and the Ireland Funds.
Ted Smyth, the NYU convenor, said previous polls had “skewed older” towards retirees and this one had been undertaken to discover specifically what younger Irish-American thought about their identities. “We were particularly interested in how we could reach the next generation, and if they would continue to be interested in their Irish identity,” he said.
Facebook was where younger people were gathering, and they did not seem to be joining traditional Irish organisations, he said.
Mr Smyth said music was much more important to this demographic than it was to the older Irish-Americans. Organisations such as the Department of Foreign Affairs would take note of this and of the need to put greater resources into social media and music performances.
He believed Irish-American identity was having a resurgence. “It becomes more meaningful in a turbulent world,” he said. “The Irish identity is no longer seen as being assertive or against other identities. It’s more convivial. It’s a very fluid, organic, dynamic thing.”