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AEI Report: Polls on Patriotism and Military Service, 2010

Wednesday, June 30th, 2010


Polls on Patriotism and Military Service, 2010
By Karlyn Bowman and Andrew Rugg
AEI Studies in Public Opinion
Wednesday, June 30, 2010

The full text of this study is available as an Adobe Acrobat PDF.

This study, a compilation of public opinion data on patriotism, examines what it means to be a patriot and what people think about military service and the draft. A special section looks at young people’s attitudes on these topics. The study includes all of the latest polling data as well as important historical trends for comparative purposes.

The content of this study includes:

  • Between 1987 and 2009 survey organizations have asked Americans how proud they are to be Americans more than a dozen times. The responses have barely changed.  In 1987, in a Gallup question, 87 percent said they were extremely or very proud. In 2009, 86 percent in an identical Pew question gave that response. 9/11 produced more overt displays of patriotism.
  • Americans rank extremely high on measures of self-professed patriotism. They are more likely than people in most other countries to say they are very proud of their country, that they would prefer to live here than elsewhere, and that the fundamentals of the American system are strong.
  • American Patriotism is not unreflective or blind. We show in our latest Political Report and our study on opinions toward the federal government that Americans retain a healthy dose of skepticism about government and also that they are very critical of current performance.
  • Substantial majorities of Americans think serving in the military is a sign of patriotism. The military is also one of the most positively viewed institutions in the country. In Gallup’s June 2009 survey, 82 percent had a great deal or quite a lot of confidence in the military. Solid majorities oppose returning to the draft.
  • In five questions asked between 1981 and 1995 by Gallup, around seven in ten said that they would be willing to fight for our country. About two in ten said they would not. An April 2009 question from Pew finds 53 percent completely or mostly agreeing that we all should be willing to fight for our country “whether it is right or wrong”. Twenty-five percent mostly disagreed with the statement and 16 percent completely disagreed with it.

Karlyn Bowman is a senior fellow at AEI. Andrew Rugg is a research assistant at AEI.