What does it mean to be patriotic in 2021?

July 01, 2021, 4:20 PM UTC

Coming up on the celebration of Independence Day, most Americans describe themselves as patriotic. In the latest Economist/YouGov poll, nearly eight in ten Americans say they consider themselves patriotic (78%), with more than a third of Americans (39%) saying they are “very patriotic.”

Each year, Republicans are more likely than Democrats to describe themselves that way: this year, 60% of Republicans say they are very patriotic, compared with 24% of Democrats.   

While a majority in every age group considers themselves patriotic, younger Americans are less likely than older Americans to call themselves “very patriotic.” One-quarter of those under 30 describe themselves as extremely patriotic, compared to a majority of adults over 65 (56%). 

The notion of patriotism is often heavily debated, especially in recent years as Americans exercised their right to protest and criticize leaders in the White House. Two-thirds of Americans agree that peaceful protests against police brutality (69%) or for racial equality (67%) are patriotic, as is criticizing U.S. presidents, including both Joe Biden (68%) and Donald Trump (67%).  

But other actions get less support. The country divides on whether it can be patriotic to criticize U.S. leaders to foreigners (40% say yes, 40% say no), or disobeying what people believe is an immoral law (35% yes, 39% no), or not serving in a war someone opposes (45% say yes, 32% say no). Most do not think burning an American flag (23% say yes, 65% say no) or refusing to pay taxes is patriotic (20% say yes, 62% say no). 

Many issues are divisive for Democrats and Republicans, including the idea of whether someone can be considered patriotic after certain acts of protest. Four in five Democrats (83%) say someone can still be considered patriotic after participating in peaceful protests against police brutality, compared to 49% of Republicans. 

Republicans and Democrats don’t agree on all these items, but they generally agree on the possible patriotism of peaceful protests and presidential criticism. There is also a consensus that it is not patriotic to disobey laws (just 35% of Democrats and 31% of Republicans say this is patriotic) or dodge taxes (69% of Democrats and 60% of Republicans say someone is NOT patriotic if they do this). 

July 4th

Related: Unvaccinated Americans are not worried about the Delta variant 

See the toplines and crosstabs from this Economist/YouGov poll  

Methodology: The Economist survey was conducted by YouGov using a nationally representative sample of 1,500 US Adult Citizens interviewed online between June 26 - 29, 2021. This sample was weighted according to gender, age, race, and education based on the American Community Survey, conducted by the US Bureau of the Census, as well as 2016 Presidential vote, registration status, geographic region, and news interest. Respondents were selected from YouGov’s opt-in panel to be representative of all US citizens. The margin of error is approximately 3.1% for the overall sample.    

Image: Photo by Edgar Colomba from Pexels