In the Face of Waning Patriotism, Give Americans Reason for Enthusiasm


Yesterday on PowerLine, both John Hinderaker and Paul Mirengoff posted on a Gallup poll on Americans’ pride in their country.  Gallup headlines that “extremely proud” Americans are at a record low.  But that’s not the whole story, naturally.

Hinderaker highlights the fact that this “record low” is the fault of Democrats, whose pride has plummeted to 32% while Republicans’ has turned up a bit, to 74%.  That’s a huge difference.  Of particular interest is that Democrats’ slide began in the thick of President Obama’s second term.  Perhaps his inability to fundamentally transform the United States immediately was a disappointment, especially in the context of a narrative push that so much has to be changed.  One doesn’t feel the need to radically transform something of which one is extremely proud.

Writes Mirengoff:

You can make the case that the single most important difference between Republicans and Democrats/conservatives and liberals is that Republicans are extremely proud of America, period, while Democrats are somewhat proud when they’re in power and not very proud when they’re not.

Hinderaker wonders “about the future of a party, most of whose members don’t like the country they are trying to take over.”  Interestingly, people who express an ideology are less likely to be “extremely proud” than people who identify with one of the political parties, with “conservatives” at 65% and “liberals” at a paltry 23%.  Without actual numbers of each group, it’s difficult to say, but this suggests that people who are proud of their country are more likely to get involved.

Of course, we should also keep these responses in perspective.  If we add in those who say they are “very proud” of their country, the overall average increases to 72%.

Still, the PowerLine crew is right to emphasize that college graduates and younger Americans are less likely to be “extremely proud” and seem to account for the bigger part of the drop.  From 2013 to 2018, 18-29 year olds with this level of patriotism dropped from 55% to 33%, while college graduates dropped from 53% to 39%.  This raises the question of why we put so much emphasis on education as a civic imperative if it doesn’t make people appreciate the civilization.

But again, some moderation in conclusions may be in order.  With the long stagnation of the Obama years, this five year span saw an increasing proportion of 18-29 year olds who’d never known a strong economy in their adult lives.  We’re also (hopefully) nearing the explosion point of an education bubble that places more premium on a college degree than that piece of paper deserves.  Consequently, the promise of the country, which lingers in our lore, doesn’t match the experience of it for them.

One suspects that two policy tracks can interact to change the unpatriotic attitude:  Get the Zinn/Marx out of education and get the economy going.  Improvements on either will improve the other, and both will make Americans feel better about their country.

  • Rhett Hardwick

    “people who identify with one of the political parties,”

    I guess I can say the “conservatives” now have a President, but do they any longer have a “party”?: