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New Ear to the Ground Poll: Cultural Divide Deepens in First Year of Trump Presidency

A pair of recent polls assessing patriotism attitudes in the American population reveal that, as the first year of the Trump presidency ends, there are two competing definitions of patriotism and distinct divergence in the underlying priorities of Americans operating in our country.

The vast differences that were found between how those who self-identified as Liberal or Conservative rated the meaning of traditional components of patriotism, such as “Freedom of Speech,” the “National Anthem,” and the “American flag,” suggest that there is a deepening division in the American understanding of patriotism in terms Old gloryof its symbols and freedoms.

Most Americans surveyed reflected this same concern – only 13% of the adults surveyed believe the citizens of the United States are becoming more patriotic; 50% believe their fellow citizens are becoming less so. Only 22% of Americans surveyed said they strongly agree they would feel safe wearing a “Make America Great Again” hat.

The findings suggest that we are more divided than ever – and neither the Left nor the Right are content to cede patriotism to the other. We see that general terms, such as “freedom of speech,” which in the past may have been associated with patriotism are murkier in meaning than before; those who want to communicate about American patriotism should know their audiences have quite different ideas about what that means.

While results suggest political affiliation can predict how patriotism is defined, 85% of liberals consider themselves to be patriotic in some sense, compared to 97% of conservatives and 83% of moderates.

Drilling down into the differences in the perceived patriotism of brands according to political party affiliation, Conservatives said the NRA is “very patriotic” – the highest ranked of the choices by them, Moderates deemed it is the U.S. Supreme Court, and Liberals chose the Democrat Party. Planned Parenthood was one percentage point behind the Democrat Party in Liberals’ estimation of “very patriotic” brands.

Likewise, overall, the National Rifle Association was considered “very patriotic” by a plurality, 33%; the same percent said the National Football League’s Colin Kaepernick was most strongly understood to be “not at all” patriotic.

Perhaps most illustrative of the polarization in how Americans understand patriotism, when provided a list of ideas associated with the topic, conservatives selected those associated with loyalty, such as endorsing “America’s enemies are your enemies” at 68% compared with 43% for liberals on that same item. 

That same pattern showed up as well with “refusal to tolerate abuse of the American flag” with 87% of conservatives endorsing that component compared with 55% of liberals, and with the statement “believe America comes first always” (82% vs. 47%).

One of the most eye-opening findings was that faith inclinations clearly make a profound difference in how people see the country, and in their responses to what is most meaningful to them.

In assessing some of the more widely recognized elements of patriotism, the survey discovered that nearly nine out of ten adults (87%) consider freedom of speech to be very meaningful to them, personally. Not far behind were freedom of religion (very meaningful to 82%), citizenship (81%), and the Constitution (80%).  

Lesser proportions of adults, but a large majority nevertheless – roughly two-thirds of the public – identified three other elements as very meaningful to them. Those included the American flag (70%), the national anthem (65%), and the pledge of allegiance (65%).  

What was perhaps most surprising was that only about six out of ten adults deemed the Bible (60%) and the right to bear arms (57%) to be very meaningful to them.

The poll found the close tie between being born again and assigning great meaning to the signs, symbols, and provisions of American freedom and greatness are strong and undeniable. When compared to three other faith segments – Notional Christians (i.e., not born again but consider themselves to be Christian), adults aligned with a non-Christian faith, and Skeptics – born again adults emerged as by far the group most supportive of the elements tested in the survey.

Born again Christians ranked highest on all nine of the elements tested, although more than four out of five of each group considered freedom of speech to be personally very meaningful. Skeptics were at the bottom of the ranking for seven of the nine elements, more positive than other groups only in relation to the right to bear arms (on which non-Christian faith adherents ranked lowest). 

About the Poll Methodology

The data displayed in this report are drawn from a pair of national surveys conducted online during October and November of 2017 by the American Culture & Faith Institute. Each survey involved 1,000 respondents age 18 or older. The sample in each survey reflects the demographic profile of the US adult population. The questions shown were one portion of a larger survey conducted each month. For detailed results please visit  

About the Ear to the Ground Listening Project

The Ear to the Ground Listening Project is a collaboration between and many other individuals in the grassroots and public policy arenas seeking to understand and reflect the voice of the American people through the tools of market research. Learn more at

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