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Post-9/11 Patriotism Remains Steadfast

by Joseph Carroll

Summer is a season full of patriotic celebrations -- baseball games, firework displays, barbecues, and Fourth of July picnics remind Americans every year of their national identity. But just how patriotic are Americans feeling this year?

A recent CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll*, conducted a week before the Fourth of July holiday, shows more than 7 in 10 Americans describe themselves as "extremely" (26%) or "very" (46%) patriotic. About one in five U.S. adults say they are somewhat patriotic, and 5% say they are not especially patriotic.

These results are essentially unchanged since the question was last asked in 2002, when 71% of Americans expressed a high level of patriotism, but slightly higher than they were in 1994 and 1999. In both of those surveys, roughly two in three Americans said they were patriotic.

This increase in feelings of patriotism between 1999 and 2002 stems from an increase in the percentage of Americans describing themselves as "extremely" patriotic. About one in five Americans in the 1994 and 1999 polls said they were extremely patriotic, compared with roughly one in four in the 2002 and 2005 surveys. The Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks elevated Americans' sense of patriotism -- that is clear from a second Gallup trend question, which has shown no less than 61% (and as many as 70%) of Americans saying they are "extremely proud" to be American in five separate polls conducted following 9/11, compared with only 55% in a January 2001 poll.

Race, Gender, Age Affect Patriotism

Some Americans are more likely than others to express high levels of patriotism.

Eighty percent of whites say they are extremely or very patriotic, while only 46% of nonwhites say this. Nonwhites are the least likely demographic subgroup among those analyzed to express high levels of patriotism.

The poll also finds differences in patriotism by age and gender. Overall, men (76%) are somewhat more likely than women (68%) to say they are extremely or very patriotic. Likewise, people aged 50 and older (79%) are more likely than younger Americans (67% of those under age 50) to be patriotic.

The interaction of age and gender produces an interesting result -- younger women prove to be significantly less likely to express a high degree of patriotism than other age and gender groups. Sixty percent of women between the ages of 18 and 49 say they are extremely or very patriotic. That compares with 78% among women aged 50 and older. At least three-fourths of men in both age groups say they are highly patriotic.


Perhaps not surprisingly, Americans' levels of patriotism divide sharply along political lines. Eighty-one percent of those who identify themselves as politically conservative say they are extremely or very patriotic. That compares with just 57% of Americans who say they are politically liberal. Seventy-three percent of self-identified political moderates consider themselves highly patriotic.

Similarly, 85% of Republicans describe themselves as extremely or very patriotic, compared with 66% of both independents and Democrats.

This partisan divide has narrowed between Gallup's 1999 and 2005 surveys. In both 1999 and 2005, Republicans were most likely to say they are highly patriotic. But the percentage of Democrats who say they are extremely or very patriotic has increased more significantly over the last six years than the percentage of independents or Republicans who say so. In 1999, 56% of Democrats said they were patriotic, and that percentage is now 10 percentage points higher. The increase among Republicans was slightly smaller, at six points (from 79% in 1999 to 85% today) and there has been essentially no change among independents (63% to 66%).

*Results are based on telephone interviews with 1,009 national adults, aged 18 and older, conducted June 24-26, 2005. For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the margin of sampling error is ±3 percentage points. In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.

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