Proud? Maybe Just Not Right Now

July 4, 2018
Posted by Jay Livingston

“America’s the best country in the world,” says Noam Chomsky. His writings are unfailingly critical of US government policy, so interviewers tend to ask him why he doesn’t go live somewhere else. That’s his answer.

More and more Americans are coming to share that ambivalence. A Gallup poll released two days ago shows that less than half of us are “extremely proud” to be an American.

(Click on an image for a larger view.)

The attacks of 2001 are probably the reason for the increase of pride in the next few years after 9/11, and the war in Iraq might have had something to do with the decline in pride as the futility of that war became evident in the mid-2000s. Interestingly, the financial collapse and great recession had no perceptible impact on national pride.

It’s tempting to blame the current low ebb of pride on Trump. The “extremely proud” percent has fallen five points since he was elected. But it also fell five points in the last years of the Obama presidency.  And in both periods, the decline was greatest among Democrats, whose “extremely proud” percent fell 11 points in Obama’s last three years and another 13 points since Trump was elected.

Does this mean that Democrats don’t love their country? Another recent poll (USA Today / Ipsos) takes a more nuanced approach to try to separate the general feeling of pride from the temporary feeling of shame for one’s country when that country is led by a shameless president. So the poll also asks respondents whether they agree or disagree with the statement, “I am proud of America right now.”       

There’s a big difference. While 72% are proud to be an American, only 42% agree that they are proud of America right now. And almost as many (39%) flat out disagree. The survey breaks this down by political party.

No surprise that Republicans are most proud on both questions. And as in many surveys, Independents are closer to Democrats than to Republicans. But even among Republicans, the current reality doesn’t come close to their ideal. There’s an 18-point gap between their American pride and their pride in America right now.

The survey has further breakdowns by gender, age, and other demographic and political variables. It also asks respondents to rate a variety of people (Trump, Pelosi, McCain, et al.), classes of people (nurses, bankers, actors) and things (the Second Amendment, respect for authority, etc.) as representing the best or worst of America.  (You can get all the data here. )

The variable that consistently produces the widest differences is which news source the person most trusts. Here, for example, is the breakdown on the pride questions.

Fox viewers are more than twice as likely to be proud right now. Similar or even larger differences separate Foxists from CNN and network TV in their best-worst ratings on issues like respect for authority and not protesting, being uncompromising in your beliefs, having secure borders, believing in God, and several others. 

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