Monday, 16 January 2012

Poll: the results of our citizenship survey

Last month we held an online poll suggested by one of our readers, Diego Tiziani.

Diego was interested in other readers' views of citizenship, and more specifically what constitutes citizenship. He said his interest was whetted by his own experiences abroad and by debates in France and Italy over immigration.

Clearly immigration and its effects on politics, economics, societies and international relations are crucial to what is studied at SAIS. Human rights, conflict management, trade, economic policies, internal politics, even monetary policy -- all can be affected by immigration flows.

In a post on December 12, we asked readers this question: What should be required to obtain citizenship of a country?

Although it was not stipulated, readers seemed to understand that the question aimed to focus respondents on the minimum requirements for citizenship.

Here are the results of the survey:

Live a minimum time in the country, prove fluency in the language 30%
Have at least one parent with citizenship in the country 20%
Be born in the country 17%
Live for a minimum period in the country 16%
Be married to a citizen of the country for a minimum period 14%
None of the above 3%

The results are interesting. First, the largest number of respondents felt that it should not be necessary for a citizen to be born in the country or to have "blood ties" to the country. In fact, nearly half of the respondents felt that a crucial criterion to be a citizen should be to live in the country for a minimum period of time, with two thirds of those saying fluency in the country's main language is also necessary.

A third of the respondents felt that a citizen should be born in the country or have at least one parent with citizenship in the country.

Finally, 14% of the respondents said a person should be able to obtain citizenship by being married to a citizen of the country for a minimum period of time -- the way I acquired French citizenship, after nearly three decades of marriage to my wife, a French national.

I'm not surprised by the results of this poll. Many SAIS students expect to move around the world during their lives and to learn different languages. It would be natural for them to favor a relatively flexible standard for citizenship.

I'd like to thank Diego for suggesting this poll. (He has already received a SAIS Bologna tee shirt for his labors.) If anyone else has an idea for a poll, please send it along to

Nelson Graves