Americans No Longer Feel US Is ‘The Greatest Nation’

November 24th, 2019 - by

Belief in American Exceptionalism Is on the Decline

 (November 21, 2019) — Most Americans think theirs is an exceptional nation, either for what it represents (42.4%) or what it has done for the world (18.2%), according to a survey from the Eurasia Group Foundation.

But, but, but: 39.5% view America as just another country acting in its own interests, up from 33.4% a year ago. That’s because fewer people feel America represents something exceptional.

  • The generation gap: 75.2% of older Americans (60+) consider America exceptional, compared to 45.1% of 18- to 29-year-olds.

The survey also underscores Americans’ noninterventionist tendencies:

1. In response to humanitarian abuses overseas, most would opt for restraint (47.1%) or a UN-led response (33.5%) rather than US military action (19.4%).

2. More Americans think the US should decrease (57.6%) rather than increase (42.4%) its military presence in Asia in response to a rising China.

  • Many favor an argument often made by President Trump — that countries like Japan and South Korea can afford to defend themselves.

3. Americans are split over what to do about Afghanistan.

  • 38.8% say the US should withdraw within the year, 31.4% say the US should negotiate with the Taliban but remain until a deal is reached, and 29.8% say the US should remain until all enemies are defeated.

The 2020 angle: “Trump supporters are less inclined to retaliate against Russia. Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders supporters are more inclined to draw down our military presence in East Asia and reduce defense spending,” writes Mark Hannah, the report’s author.

  • Asked about the greatest threats the US will face this century, immigration ranks first of four options for Republicans and last for Democrats, who are most worried about the rise of populism and authoritarianism.
  • Concerns about the costs of trade wars rose significantly for both parties over the past year.

Reasons to love America, 2018

Mike Allen / Axios

(July 4, 2018) — Forget D.C. Forget Twitter. Forget what’s on your screens. On America’s 242nd birthday, the numbers in the poll below should be a hell of a lot higher.

The big picture: Gallup this week began its report on the poll above (taken by phone June 1-13; 1,520 US adults; ±3-point margin of error for total): “This Fourth of July marks a low point in US patriotism . . . . For the first time in Gallup’s 18-year history asking US adults how proud they are to be Americans, fewer than a majority say they are ‘extremely proud.”

By the numbers: “Currently, 47% describe themselves this way, down from 51% in 2017 and well below the peak of 70% in 2003.”

A USA Today/Ipsos poll made a clever distinction in its questions and had a more encouraging result (taken online June 26-27; 1,004 US adults; ±3.5 margin of error for total):

  • 72% felt proud to be Americans.
  • 42% feel proud of America right now.

Our thought bubble: When we begin conflating “America” with partisan forces on either side, they’ve won. The strength of our country has been that it transcends the fads, fevers and foul-ups of the moment.


  • “The US had more job openings this spring than unemployed Americans.” (Wall Street Journal)
  • We travel freely: Every day, 2.5 million of us board 42,000 flights.
  • 25% of us do volunteer service.
  • The US government spends close to $50 billion (1% of total federal budget authority) helping the world, plus billions more from US-based philanthropies.
  • Americans are part of just 39% of the world population judged by Freedom House to be “free.”
  • “Violent crime in the US has fallen sharply over the past quarter century.” (Pew Research Center)
  • “Crime in New York City Plunges to a Level Not Seen Since the 1950s.” (N.Y. Times)
  • “Powered by a booming stock market and a strong economy,” charitable giving in the US last year “exceeded $400 billion in a single year for the first time.” (Giving USA)
  • About 1.3 million of us are on active duty in the military, and 20 million of us once served. (But, per the Pentagon: “[T]he number of Americans with firsthand experience with service members or veterans has declined precipitously since the beginning of the all-volunteer military in 1973.”)

There’s plenty we can do better, and that our leaders should do better. We write about that on Axios all day, every day. Axios AM’s highest purpose is to give you a clear-eyed view of a disruptive world, so you can make smarter decisions.

But enjoy today, and the country. America, here’s to 243!

Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.