Earlier this week, on the eve of the Fourth of July, Gallup released a poll that addressed how Americans feel about their country. The provocative lead to the Gallup story, which produced a lot of equally provocative headlines around the country, was as follows:
“This Fourth of July marks a low point in U.S. patriotism. For the first time in Gallup’s 18-year history asking U.S. adults how proud they are to be Americans, fewer than a majority say they are “extremely proud.” Currently, 47% describe themselves this way, down from 51% in 2017 and well below the peak of 70% in 2003.”
Not surprisingly, in view of the current occupant of the White House, the percentage of Democrats and liberals who describe themselves as “extremely proud” of being an American has declined. But note that the 47% figure addresses only those people who describe themselves as at the highest pride level available on the survey. The vast majority of the respondents still expressed significant pride in their country, with 25% saying they are “very proud” and 16% who are “moderately proud.” That adds up to close to 90 percent of the respondents.
The first paragraph of the Gallup release also makes, in my view, a significant error in equating “extreme pride” with “patriotism.” In my view, patriotism means you love and care about your country, not that you are blind to its issues; patriotism is not “my country, right or wrong.” You can be devoted to and supportive of your country without feeling “extremely proud” that you are an American at a particular point in time. Changes in “extreme pride” say a lot more about how Americans are feeling about the course the country is on than they do about how Americans feel, deep down, about their country, its history, its freedoms, and its opportunities.
I’d be willing to be that everyone who is vigorously opposing the various initiatives of the Trump Administration is doing so because they are convinced that opposing such initiatives is the way to make America an even better place to live. They may not be “extremely proud” of their country right now, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t patriotic.