What polls say about the state of American patriotism

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Article Highlights

  • In a recent Gallup poll, only 20% of Americans were satisfied with the way things were going in the U.S.

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  • Satisfaction levels have been this low before, but we have never seen a period of sustained pessimism like the one today.

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  • Americans haven’t given up on America: Substantial numbers still believe our system of government is the best in the world.

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  • In 2011, 77% told the @WashingtonPost that the U.S. had the best system of government in the world, despite its faults.

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  • 84% of registered voters said the U.S. was the best country in which to live in an @FoxNews 2011 poll.

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One would have to be living under a rock to miss today’s sour public mood. When Gallup asked people in June about the way things were going in the United States at this time, only 20 percent said they were satisfied, while more than three-quarters, 77 percent, reported being dissatisfied.

The “satisfied” response has been this low before. In late 1979, when the government looked incompetent at home and impotent abroad, satisfaction dropped to this level. During the 1992 recession, we saw similar low levels of contentment. What is different is that we have never seen a period of sustained pessimism such as the one we are experiencing now. The gloominess began during the financial crisis in the fall of 2008 and hasn’t lifted.

But Americans haven’t given up on America. As we get ready to celebrate the nation’s birth, love of country remains strong. And very substantial numbers of us still believe our system of government is the best in the world and that our country is the best place to live. Here are some data points.

*In 1987, when the Pew Research Center first asked people about the statement, “I am very patriotic,” 89 percent said they either completely or mostly agreed with it. When they repeated the question this spring, a virtually identical 88 percent gave that response.

*Last year, 77 percent told Washington Post interviewers that the United States had the best system of government in the world, despite its faults. Only 21 percent disagreed.

*Eighty-four percent of registered voters in a Fox News poll last year said the United States was the best country in which to live.

*In a Gallup survey conducted between 2008 and 2010 of people in 146 countries, 14 percent (about 630 million people) said they would like to move to another country if they had the chance. The top destination? The United States, which 23 percent of potential migrants mentioned as their desired future residence. The United Kingdom and Canada were a distant second.

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About the Author


  • Karlyn Bowman compiles and analyzes American public opinion using available polling data on a variety of subjects, including the economy, taxes, the state of workers in America, environment and global warming, attitudes about homosexuality and gay marriage, NAFTA and free trade, the war in Iraq, and women's attitudes. In addition, Ms. Bowman has studied and spoken about the evolution of American politics because of key demographic and geographic changes. She has often lectured on the role of think tanks in the United States and writes a weekly column for Forbes.com.
  • Phone: 2028625910
    Email: kbowman@aei.org
  • Assistant Info

    Name: Andrew Rugg
    Phone: 2028625917
    Email: andrew.rugg@aei.org



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