Americans' Beliefs about the United States
A recent (9/29-30/13) poll by Rasmussen Reports has some interesting (and some disturbing) data on people's beliefs about the U.S. and especially American citizenship. One datum from this poll suggests that some people appear to have soured on Barack Obama's America.
First, however, the "good" news.
Ninety-three percent of those polled said it's at least somewhat important to be a U.S. citizen. Seventy-nine percent thought it's very important to be an American citizen. (Even so, one wonders what 7% of the populace thinks. Moreover, is that 93% figure higher or lower than it was just after World War II?) Eighty-six percent said Americans should be proud to be U.S. citizens. (So far, so good, until one contemplates what the other 14% believe.) The same poll discovered that 74% of those polled believed Americans should be proud of the history of this country. (Anti-American educators, entertainment, and news media personalities have got work to do.) Fifty-nine percent believed the U.S. is more exceptional than other nations. (Barack Obama needs to reassert his belief that America is no more exceptional than Great Britain or Greece [or whatever].)
Forty-five percent of those polled by Rasmussen thought it's OK for U.S. citizens to have dual citizenship. (What would that percentage would have been in 1946?) BTW, only four percent claimed to be a citizen of another country.
Responses to another question are troubling. Twenty-six percent thought it's too easy right now for someone to become a U.S. citizen, slightly more than the 17% who believed it's too hard. (Wouldn't it be interesting to learn why people answered this question as they did? Moreover, how did the other 57% of those polled respond?)
Now things begin to get truly worrisome.
Almost half (49%) opined that America's Founding Fathers would consider the U.S. a failure! Thirty-four percent believed the Founders would consider the U.S. a success. (Wouldn't it be interesting to ascertain why nearly half the sample thinks America's founders would consider the country a failure? [Again, the anti-Americans in the education system and the entertainment and news media have work to do.])
Finally, most alarming of all is the poll's finding that 9% of those polled had considered quitting their U.S. citizenship. (In short, just under one-tenth of adults admit they've contemplated jettisoning their U.S. citizenship!)
Since some people will not tell an interviewer they hold "socially unacceptable" sentiments, the "true" figure on this question might be higher.
Demographic and political factors generally play little role in who has, and who has not, contemplated vacating her/his American citizenship. Opinions, however, sometimes do. For example, those who conceive of the U.S. more as an idea than as a nation were 16 percentage points more likely to say they've thought about giving up their citizenship (23% vs. 7%). There is also a linear relationship between differing beliefs about how important is it to be a U.S. citizen and admission that one might quit her/his citizenship.
Other polls also shed helpful light.
The Gallup Poll has asked the same questions on five occasions (1994, 1999, 2002, 2005, and 2010). The queries are: "How patriotic are you? Would you say extremely patriotic, very patriotic, somewhat patriotic, or not very patriotic?" (One wishes for more recent data, but they can't be had.)
It is always best to compare identically worded items (preferably situated in nearly identical questionnaire contexts). Still, the Gallup items tap a facet of the mindset associated with a willingness to surrender American citizenship.
As Lyman Morales -- who wrote Gallup's report -- noted, the percentage of American adults who claimed to be very patriotic rose from 21 in 1994 to 32 in 2010. It had been as low as 19% in 1999.
As Morales also indicated, much of the increase in people saying they were very patriotic occurred among "seniors, Republicans, [and] conservatives." If we focus just on the five years between 2005 and 2010, the percentage of Republicans, conservatives, and persons over 65 claiming to be very patriotic rose between 15 and 19 percentage points. During the same period, claims to be very patriotic remained essentially constant among young people between 18 and 29, Democrats, and liberals.
By 2010, for example, conservatives were 19 percentage points more likely than liberals to say they were very patriotic (48% vs. 19%), and Republicans were 32 percentage points more likely to express very patriotic sentiments than were Democrats (52% vs. 20%).
One can never say whether what some might regard as a minor change in a question's wording -- substituting "extremely" for "very," for example -- would significantly alter these percentages, but Gallup's question is valuable nevertheless. By posing the query with exactly the same wording on five occasions over 16 years, we can see how responses to the item have changed.
Another Gallup poll, conducted December 10-12, 2010, is also helpful. The poll posed the following question: "Because of the United States' history and its Constitution, do you think the U.S. has a unique character that makes it the greatest country in the world, or don't you think so?"
Eighty percent of those polled believed in American exceptionalism. As Jeffery Jones -- who wrote the report -- noted, "Americans' beliefs about U.S. exceptionalism may in general reflect a tendency to be patriotic..."
(Don't try comparing the Gallup and Rasmussen polls on [sentiments about exceptionalism]. First, the questions were different. Second, we may confront "house effects," i.e., variations in polls stemming just from the fact that different organizations are involved.)
It is worrisome that three-quarters of people who believed the U.S. is exceptional also thought the U.S. risks losing its exceptionalism. Again as Jones noted, people's "views about the United States' exceptional status being at risk could stem from their usually seeing conditions for the United States getting worse rather than better in a variety of areas."
Just 37% did not think that Barack Obama believes the U.S. is exceptional. Fifty-eight percent did. (Since this came AFTER Obama said he did not think the U.S. was any more exceptional than the typical Briton or Greek thought about her/his country, one wonders where the 58% had been.)
Moreover, respondents' opinions about Obama's lukewarm sentiments about American exceptionalism must be juxtaposed to their perception of previous presidents' beliefs. Eighty-six percent of the sample thought Reagan believed in U.S. exceptionalism, as did 77% about Clinton (!), and 74% about Bush #43.
These polls have a "glass half-full, half-empty" quality. Despite assaults on the country by anti-Americans in the schools and the media, and especially by Obama and the Obamians -- who seem to hate the country as it was founded -- large percentages of ordinary people remain proud to be Americans and believe in U.S. exceptionalism.
Nevertheless, there are worrisome data. Three-quarters of individuals who thought America was exceptional are worried lest that quality be lost. Strong patriotism seems to have been politicized. And if the young are our future, the signs are worrisome.
Finally, if ten percent of the populace admit to having considered jettisoning their American citizenship -- and if a large slice of these are our "best and brightest" -- the country's future augurs ill.