One of my ESL students asked me last week, "what is meant by the term 'The American People?'"
He pointed out, rightly, that America is composed of people from all over the world. I told him the term didn't really mean anything other than people who live in America. My wife suggested (later) that it often refers to voters. It is certainly a more problematic term than similar terms referring to more homogenous populations such as "Japanese people." I am told that an american living in Japan will never, under any circumstances, be thought of as Japanese. I suppose they think of it as a racial/genetic sort of category.