Daniel Cottam and Dr. Christ Karpowitz, Political Science Department
In America alone, the number of dual citizens is estimated between one to five million. In this age of globalization, this number is expected to increase as more and more families consist of parents from two different countries. Despite the everincreasing number of dual citizens, and even as researchers continue to study how citizenship affects an individual’s perspective of their civic duties, identity, and views of others, there have been virtually no studies conducted to better understand the growing role of those who have legal ties to more than one nation-state. This results in a drought of information about this sizeable group. Governments across the globe enact policies which encourage or discourage an individual from holding multiple passports, all while lacking information about the group they are impacting. Owing to the immense scale and diversity of dual-citizens the world over, our intention with our research was not to offer any declarative answers but rather to conduct exploratory research on European-American citizens. We conducted interviews that allowed us to develop hypotheses which, in a follow up study, will be tested on a larger and more diverse sample. In a very real sense, our research over the past year guided us as we prepared for more intensive research, research that will seek to answer hypotheses rather than develop them.
The importance of this research only increased as 2017 developed and a portion of the American public demonstrated their preference for protectionism, a policy which is inherently difficult for dual-citizens. America First is not as simple of a statement for someone who has legal responsibilities to another country as well.
In order to gain the qualitative data needed, student researcher Daniel Cottam interviewed a variety of dual-citizens and asked them open-ended questions about their backgrounds, perceptions, opinions, and experiences. Examples of some such questions are as follows.
1. How did you become a dual-citizen? Were you born into it or was it through world travel? What actions did you have to take to procure two passports?
2. How do you introduce yourself? Which passport do you use while traveling?
3. Tell us about the effects of language on your feelings of belonging.
4. What responsibilities do you feel towards both of your countries? Taxes, military service, etc.
5. What would drive you to choose between your nations of citizenship?
Such questions were designed to allow for more of a discussion with the subjects, thus encouraging them to voice their opinions, experiences, and concerns. These interviews sought to gather information and perspectives, synthesize and analyze those viewpoints, and then use them to develop a close-ended survey which we can later distribute to a wider population in order to acquire quantitative information to complement our qualitative surveys. These interviews maintained the primary criteria of only dealing with dual citizens of European countries or the USA over the age of 18. Due to our use of various personal contacts, many of our subjects were Swiss, but we also had respondents from the UK, Germany, Spain, Finland, and France.
Our subsequent project is to initiate a snowball survey with a slew of questions which were formulated through analysis of the interviews. Two such questions are “what dollar worth would you assign to each of your citizenships?” and “from inactive to completely active, how would you describe your political involvement in each of your countries of citizenship?” As much as possible, the questions will be formulated to allow the quantitative survey to also be given to citizens of only a single country. Their responses will serve as a control group, thus allowing us to identify areas where dual citizens differ from the general public.
Perhaps one of the most intriguing aspect of our research that, as of yet, remains untouched was the viewpoint of dual-citizens whose countries of citizenship are not friendly with one another. This was not addressed in our research because of the relatively friendly relations between all the nations of Europe and the USA. However, the challenges which arise for a citizen of two countries in conflict are certainly valuable topics for further research.
Our ultimate hypotheses which we will now research further are as follows; dual citizenship is almost always viewed as valuable to those who possess it. Those who are unable to speak the language of the land often feel very alienated from their citizenship. However, much like membership to a country club, citizenship in a country gives individuals the confidence to become someone who belongs in the group. This includes actions such as learning the national language, connecting with others from that country, and reaching out to family or friends. Perhaps in part due to the language barriers, receiving dual-citizenship through lineage has a lower value than those who obtain it by living in a country for an extended period of time. The value which a citizen attaches to their citizenship varies but most people are able to assign a dollar amount to their second citizenship. Eventually the cost can be raised high enough (whether through military service, the payment of dual-taxes, or other means) to force nearly every dual-citizen to choose between their passports. However, this concept applies both to those who are deciding to surrender citizenship as well as those who are willing to pay in order to obtain dual-citizenship.
Furthermore, because the regulations on acquiring dual-citizenship vary widely between countries, even many dual-citizens recognize that their unique positions afford them unfair advantages over others who also feel connections to their heritage but lack the legal ties. Fortunately, despite this unfair reality, being a dual-citizen is typically viewed in a very positive light by one’s peers.
Finally, the majority of governmental stimuli push a dual-citizen toward choosing one citizenship or the other. However, the majority of economic incentives reward those who have dual citizenship.