The FINANCIAL -- As the nation prepares to celebrate Independence Day, 52% of U.S. adults say they are "extremely proud" to be Americans, a new low in Gallup's 16-year trend. Americans' patriotism spiked after 9/11, peaking at 70% in 2003, but has declined since, including an eight-percentage-point drop in early 2005 and a five-point drop since 2013.
Americans' declining patriotism is likely related to broader dissatisfaction with the way things are going in the U.S. In January 2004, when 69% were extremely proud to be an American, 55% of Americans were satisfied with the way things were going in the U.S. That was the last time satisfaction has been at the majority level, and the percentage satisfied has mostly held below 30% since 2007, including the 29% in Gallup's most recent update.
Americans' patriotism stayed relatively flat from 2006 through 2013, a period that spanned the Great Recession and Barack Obama's election and first term as president. But over the last three years, Americans' willingness to say they are extremely proud to be an American has declined further.
In addition to the 52% who say they are extremely proud in the June 14-23 poll, another 29% say they are very proud and 13% moderately proud, meaning the vast majority of U.S. adults express at least a considerable amount of pride in being Americans. Five percent say they are "only a little proud" and 1% "not at all proud."
Young Adults Lead Decline in Patriotism
Since the 2003 peak, all major subgroups have shown significant declines in the percentage saying they are extremely proud to be Americans. The largest decline has come among young adults, from 60% to 34%. In 2003 as well as today, young adults rank among the subgroups least willing to say they are extremely proud to be Americans.
Young adults today are also one of the few subgroups that are significantly less likely to be patriotic than in January 2001, before the 9/11 rally effect. At that time, 51% of 18- to 29-year-olds were extremely proud to be Americans. Because no one who is 18 to 29 today was in that same age group in 2001 or 2003, the trends in patriotism among young adults could be evidence that those in the millennial generation are less patriotic than young adults in generations that preceded them. And that generational change may help explain why there has been further decline in patriotism among all U.S. adults over the last three years.
Political liberals (36%) join young adults as the least patriotic major subgroup today. Independents, Democrats, nonwhites and college graduates also show below-average patriotism.
Republicans (68%), conservatives (61%) and those aged 50 to 64 (64%) are the major subgroups most likely to say they are extremely proud to be Americans. Republicans, 50- to 64-year-olds and nonwhites are the only groups that are at least somewhat more patriotic today than before 9/11. As a result of Republicans' still-elevated percentage, the 23-point Republican-Democratic gap in patriotism is now roughly double what it was in January 2001.
The vast majority of U.S. adults indicate they are at least moderately proud to be Americans, but as they celebrate the Fourth of July this year, fewer say they are extremely proud than at any point in the last 16 years. Americans' continued frustration with national conditions -- likely tied to their concern about the economy and lack of faith in public institutions -- is probably one reason patriotism is at a recent low point.
It is unclear to what extent, if any, the presidential campaign that now pits two controversial and widely unpopular nominees against each other could be a factor in Americans' expressed pride. A year ago -- long before the presidential field was set -- there were signs that patriotism was declining further.
Millennials' greater reluctance than young adults before them to say they are extremely proud to be an American may also be a factor in the new low and, if so, could signal further declines in patriotism in the years and decades ahead.