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We’re Divided On Patriotism Too

Welcome to Pollapalooza, our weekly polling roundup.

Poll of the week

We at FiveThirtyEight hope you had a very patriotic Fourth of July — whatever that means to you. A YouGov poll, released this week, checked in on Americans’ feelings on patriotism and revealed some stark differences along — what else? — partisan lines.

Overall, the survey found that 76 percent of Americans consider themselves “very” or “somewhat” patriotic. But between Republicans and Democrats, there were pretty big differences: A whopping 97 percent of Republicans placed themselves in the “very” or “somewhat” categories, compared with 71 percent of Democrats. That’s a gap of 26 percentage points. Even more starkly, 72 percent of Republicans consider themselves to be “very” patriotic (the highest level of patriotism), compared with 29 percent of Democrats — a 43-point gap.

The poll also suggests that Democrats may define patriotism differently than their conservative counterparts. Specifically, YouGov found that Democrats are more likely than Republicans to believe that patriotism can include dissent:

  • 52 percent of Democrats told YouGov that someone can criticize U.S. leaders to foreigners and still be considered patriotic, compared with 35 percent of Republicans.
  • 51 percent of Democrats say disobeying a law they think is immoral doesn’t detract from their patriotism, compared with 33 percent of Republicans.
  • 34 percent of Democrats think a person can still be a patriot even if he or she burns the American flag in protest, compared with 10 percent of Republicans.
  • And 55 percent of Democrats think an American can refuse to serve in a war he or she opposes and still maintain his or her patriotism, compared with 25 percent of Republicans.1

The “patriotism gap” is nothing new. Gallup has asked its respondents how proud they are to be Americans periodically since 2001. According to those polls, one year after the Sept. 11 attacks, 93 percent of Democrats and 99 percent of Republicans said they were either “extremely” or “very” proud to be Americans. The GOP number stayed comfortably in the 90s for the duration of George W. Bush’s presidency, but by January 2007, amid an unpopular war in Iraq that sparked no small amount of liberal dissent, the share of Democrats who were “extremely” or “very” proud to be Americans had shrunk to 74 percent — 21 points lower than the Republican share (and, to that point, the widest gap since Gallup started asking the question). The Democratic share increased during Barack Obama’s presidency (reaching a high of 85 percent in 2013) but was still consistently lower than the GOP’s: The share of Republicans who said they were “extremely” or “very” proudly American never dipped below 89 percent despite the extremely low opinion GOP voters had of Obama.

After the election of Donald Trump, the share of “extremely” or “very” proudly American Republicans ticked upward,2 but the share of Democrats saying the same thing plunged to 67 percent in 2017 and 60 percent just last month (the chart above has not been updated with the 2018 data). The current 33-point gap now holds the record for the widest gap between the two parties since 2001. (YouGov’s data also seems to suggest that Trump is contributing to the patriotism gap: The difference between the shares of Democrats and Republicans who said they were “very” patriotic rose from 29 points in 2013 to the current 43-point difference.)

So do Democrats’ feelings of patriotism rise and fall depending simply on who is in the White House? Data that Pew Research Center collected from 1987 to 2003 suggests that might not be the case. Throughout that time period, more Republicans than Democrats told pollsters that they “completely” agreed with the statement, “I am very patriotic.” In 1987, 51 percent of Republicans completely agreed, compared with 40 percent of Democrats. The two ticked up in tandem to Gulf War-era highs in 1991, but then, during the Bill Clinton administration, the gap widened: Democrats fell back into the 40s, while Republican agreement with that statement remained around 60 percent.

So what accounts for the persistent difference? It could just be that Republicans are more comfortable with the most obvious manifestations of patriotism these days. Public displays of patriotism often assume a pro-military dimension (sometimes purposefully and tactically so), which may be more likely to appeal to Republicans (other polls show they are generally more hawkish than Democrats). Singing “God Bless America” and military flyovers at sporting events also first came into fashion in the years immediately following 9/11, when rallying around the flag coincided with rallying around a Republican president. By contrast, funding AmeriCorps or paying taxes probably aren’t the first things many people think of when they think of patriotism, but lots of Democrats would argue they should be. Even apple pie and baseball aren’t the unifiers they once were: Pumpkin pie beat out apple as Americans’ Thanksgiving dessert of choice in 2015, and football blasphemously beats out baseball as Americans’ favorite sport to watch, 37 percent to 9 percent. In sum, we’re a big country, and there are just as many ways to enjoy America as there are Americans.

Other polling nuggets

  • A Quinnipiac University poll found that 63 percent of registered voters (84 percent of Democrats and 36 percent of Republicans) agree with the Supreme Court’s 1973 decision in Roe v. Wade, which established a woman’s right to an abortion, while 31 percent disagree.
  • Quinnipiac also found that 91 percent of registered voters, including large majorities of Democrats and Republicans, think “the lack of civility in politics” is a serious problem. When asked who they blame more, “President Trump or the Democrats,” 85 percent of Democrats said Trump, and 76 percent of Republicans said the Democrats.
  • According to a SurveyMonkey poll, 62 percent of Americans believe the Senate should vote on President Trump’s nominee to the Supreme Court before the November elections. Sixty percent say the process of confirming nominees has become too partisan.
  • A YouGov poll found that 46 percent of Democrats support abolishing the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency and replacing it with a different organization — a position that has been advocated by some Democratic lawmakers. Twenty-seven percent of Democrats said they opposed the move, and an additional 27 percent said they weren’t sure.
  • According to a poll by the Kaiser Family Foundation, 76 percent of Americans said they’re in favor of requiring TV ads for prescription drugs to include a statement about how much they cost, a proposal that is part of the Trump administration’s plan for reducing drug prices.
  • 43 percent of women say they do more than their fair share of house work in their households, according to a YouGov poll. That’s compared with 26 percent of men.
  • A Pew Research Center poll found that 24 percent of Americans say legal immigration should be decreased. That’s a significant decline since 2001, when 53 percent said so.
  • A Florida International University poll of 1,000 Puerto Ricans in Florida found that the majority have either a “good” or “very good” opinion of Republican Gov. Rick Scott despite very high levels of disapproval of the president, whom Scott was an early supporter of. People who moved to Florida between 2017 and 2018 were more likely to have a “very good” opinion of Scott than those who arrived earlier. Scott has repeatedly visited Puerto Rico since Hurricane Maria hit the island in September 2017 and campaigned to welcome evacuees from the island.
  • A Gallup poll found that only 3 percent of India’s population was “thriving”3 in 2017. That’s an 11-point decrease from 2014, when 14 percent of the population was “thriving,” despite a 24 percent increase in GDP during that time.
  • Are you obsessed with polls? Check out FiveThirtyEight’s new polls dashboard, where we’re displaying all in one place the polls we’re collecting for the 2018 U.S. Senate, U.S. House and gubernatorial elections!

Trump approval

Trump’s approval rating is currently 41.9 percent, according to FiveThirtyEight’s tracker. His disapproval rating is 10.8 percentage points higher, at 52.7 percent. Trump’s job-approval numbers have generally held steady over the past month. One month ago today, his approval rating was 41.3 percent, and his disapproval rating was 52.6 percent (a net approval rating of -11.3 points). One week ago, his approval rating was 41.8 percent, and his disapproval rating was 52.3 percent (a net approval rating of -10.5 points).

Generic ballot

This week, Democrats are ahead in polls of the generic congressional ballot by an average of 47.3 percent to 39.6 percent — a 7.7-percentage-point lead, according to FiveThirtyEight’s model. One week ago, Democrats led 47.0 percent to 39.8 percent (a 7.2-point edge). One month ago, it was Democrats 46.3 percent and Republicans 39.9 percent (a 6.4-point edge).


  1. Democrats and Republicans were closer together on taxes: 26 percent of Democrats and 19 percent of Republicans said you can refuse to pay taxes and maintain your patriotism.

  2. Although it has still reached no higher than it was at the midpoint of the Obama administration.

  3. Gallup groups people into three categories: “thriving,” “struggling” and “suffering” based on their responses to two questions. The first asks people to rate their present life situation on a scale of 1 to 10, and the second asks them to use the same scale to assess their views on the next five years. Those who are categorized as “thriving” rate their present life situation as greater than or equal to 7 and their future as greater than or equal to 8. In 2017, Gallup found that 56 percent of Americans were “thriving.”

Nathaniel Rakich is a senior editor and senior elections analyst at FiveThirtyEight.

Dhrumil Mehta was a database journalist at FiveThirtyEight.