Are America’s best days ahead? It’s a time-tested question that has been asked for decades, and the answers give clues on whether people will claim to be proud to be an American or whether they are “over” the American experiment.
Turns out as Independence Day 2017 approaches, Americans are feeling pretty good about form if less so about function.
According to a new report that looked at a series of polling questions repeatedly administered over many years, the American spirit is still trending strong. As recently as March, 75 percent of Americans told the Gallup polling company that they are “very” or “extremely” proud to be an American. Unfortunately, this number is down six points from the previous two years.
But other poll questions that looked at particular aspects of America showed good will toward the nation’s ideals and achievements. For instance, 84 percent told Gallup they are proud to live under the U.S. system of government. More than half of Americans in an AP/NORC poll said they are extremely or very proud of America’s Armed Forces, as well as achievements in science, technology, sports, history, arts, and literature.
As for the nation’s best days, 62 percent of registered voters told Fox News in May that America’s best days are ahead; 29 percent said they were behind us. That’s an increase from recession-era May 2009 when 57 percent thought our best days were ahead and 33 said they were behind, but slightly down from mid-2012.
As far as exceptionalism – the very profound idea that America is unlike any other nation because of its emphasis on life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness — 81 percent told Gallup in 2016 that America is exceptional, and holds a responsibility to be a leader in the world.
But as Karlyn Bowman and Eleanor O’Neil, researchers on public opinion and its impact on U.S. policy, write, just because people are proud of their country doesn’t mean they are happy with how it’s being run.
Pollsters tend to focus on our problems, and they are real, of course. When you care deeply about your country, you want to shine a light on problems to fix them. …
It will come as no surprise to anyone that we are dissatisfied with performance these days. In recent months, in a question Gallup has asked since the 1930s about the most important problem facing the country, more people volunteered “poor leadership/dissatisfaction with government” (25 percent of respondents) than mentioned any other problem. In a 2017 AP/NORC survey, 53 percent said political polarization was extremely or very threatening to the American way of life. It ranked higher than all of the other things asked about including the nation’s political leaders, illegal immigration, economic inequality, the influence from foreign governments, and legal immigration.
Likewise, the notion of division is palpable, with 86 percent saying they believe America “is more politically divided than in the past, the highest response on this question that was first asked in 2004. Around six in ten feel Donald Trump is doing more to divide the country than unite it.”
So, if a majority of Americans feel divided and are not confident in the way the government is being run but they are still optimistic about whether problems can be fixed, can common ground can be found? How do we go back to functioning cohesively? Could it be a grand project like putting a man on the moon? Does change start with us? The big ideas are noteworthy topics to remember and celebrate on America’s birthday.
Happy Independence Day!
What’s your idea for bringing together those who are proud to be an American to getting them to work together to solve the country’s biggest challenges? Leave a comment or join the conversation on Facebook.