According to a new Gallup poll, only 43% of Americans under 30 are “extremely proud” to be from the Land of the Free. Across all Americans, it is just 54%—the lowest since Gallup first asked the question, just when Bill Clinton’s presidency ended at the start of 2001.
Later that year, of course, the US experienced its worst terror attacks in New York and Washington, and patriotism soared in the George W. Bush years—reaching a peak of 70% in 2003, when the US invaded Iraq. Since Barack Obama was elected in 2008, the percentage of citizens extremely proud to be American has been consistently under 60% and declining.
Why the drop in patriotism in the Obama years? For starters, Americans who are older, Southern, and Republican are the most likely to profess an extreme level of pride in their country—they have now spent more than six years under a president whose politics generally are not aligned with their own.
On the other side of the other side of the political spectrum, many liberals—and young people overall—have been shaken by the multiple incidents of black people killed by white police officers over the past couple of years. As a result, many Americans are questioning just how far the US has come in dealing with its legacy of racism, despite having a black president.
That said, the Gallup poll was conducted in early June—it’s quite possible there could be a spike in patriotism following the US Supreme Court’s recent decisions to legalize gay marriage and uphold Obamacare. (But the poll also predated the horrific June 17 church shooting in Charleston, South Carolina, which left nine people dead.)
As Gallup notes, “patriotism is not necessarily a fixed characteristic, but can vary depending on circumstances—most notably when the US is under duress, as was the case after the events of 9/11 and the build-up to wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.” Its polls suggest that there is no such thing as a patriotic citizen, but rather “patriotism” is a feeling that ebbs and flows with the times.
As for the people who are extremely proud to be American right now, 64% of them are senior citizens and 61% are Southerners. Regionally, extreme pride is lowest in the western states, where it is shared by only 46% of people.
Across the nation, only 47% of Democrats feel extreme pride in their country, versus 68% of Republicans. Independents fall in the middle, at 53%.