On the eve of one of the country's biggest days of celebration, enthusiasm levels seem to have dropped to a 14-year low. According to a new Gallup poll released on Thursday, Americans report not feeling as "patriotic" this year, despite the upcoming Fourth of July holiday. Analysts have not yet been able to pinpoint a reason for the dip in numbers, but with all the political and social turmoil brewing of late, there could be any number of culprits.
While the majority of Americans still said they felt "extremely proud" of their country, at 54 percent, that margin is growing thinner by the year.
"In addition to the 54 percent who are extremely proud to be an American, 27 percent say they are 'very proud,'" reported Gallup on Thursday. That left some 19 percent of Americans who said they were either "moderately proud," "only a little proud," and "not at all proud." And although the overall positive numbers still outweigh the negative answers, the fact that the latter continues to grow is concerning.
Even with the celebratory atmosphere of last week's major SCOTUS decisions still very present, which the poll did not take into account, the widening sociopolitical divide between the far ends of the spectrum may contribute significantly to the dropping numbers, with both sides seeing movement in the opposite direction as unsettling. Furthermore, with instances of police brutality and racial issues growing louder with each passing moment, large-scale decisions like last week's may only add to the chaotic fervor.
Over the past week alone, LGBTQ proponents hailed the Court's divisive gay marriage ruling as a step in the right direction — but the decision did nothing to stem the influx of angry rhetoric from religious and far-right conservative groups who categorized the ruling as judicial overreach and criticized the trend left as a colossal misstep.
Texas Sen. Ted Cruz called the ruling "the darkest 24 hours in our nation's history" during an interview with Fox News' Sean Hannity; former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, Cruz's 2016 GOP rival, blasted the left, suggesting that the energy being poured into the climate change debate should be redirected to fight gay marriage, telling Fox's Tucker Carlson that such a move was necessary "for the survival of our country."
On the opposite side of the debate, a slew of abortion-restricting measures across several U.S. states has prompted outrage from several corners, with many calling the attempts to increase wait times between consults and procedures, mandatory transvaginal ultrasounds, and graphic medical explanations a blow to women's rights everywhere.
In reaction to a recent attempt by Tennessee lawmakers to pass a restrictive abortion bill through the state legislature in January, for example, Allison Glass, state director for the reproductive rights group Healthy and Free Tennessee, remarked that the bill and any others like it across the country were an infringement on personal liberties and bodily autonomy — something otherwise highly valued by those on the right.
"Each person should be able to make their own medical decisions in consultation with their doctor and without the interference of lawmakers looking to push a personal agenda," said Glass in a statement. "These [types of] bills are an unconstitutional attack on reproductive freedom."
With both sides of the aisle calling foul on a mass of important decisions with nationwide — and sometimes constitutional — implications, it's a fair assumption that the rising contention could cause some to perceive the build-up as a sign of the country's future demise and trigger a wave of unpatriotic sentiment.
A July 2014 report by The New York Times suggested that the generational gap had also contributed to the steady decline in overall patriotism — just not the way that everyone assumed.
"Patriotism seems to span the life cycle, not change with it, which might give us pause given the low starting levels of the millennial generation," The Times suggested, citing an American National Election Study from that same month, which reported newer generations as feeling less emotionally connected to symbols like the American flag. However, they warned, that didn't mean millennials were less loyal.
"Millennials to be extremely supportive of the ideals and values of democracy, if not the symbols of America," they wrote. "They may look less patriotic than the rest of America at first glance, but coming of age in the era of globalization and being a more racially diverse generation may simply mean that traditional symbols of American democracy hold less meaning for this cohort."
The latest Gallup numbers may indicate that Americans have grown distrustful of one another more than they reflect the actual confidence in the idea of the United States itself. Without a doubt, a large portion of the country still believes that the direction in which the country is headed, no matter how much they disagree with it, can be sorted out in its own time. And as racial tensions and rising movements toward equality rear their respective heads with the upcoming generations, that push for equality will likely cause the numbers themselves to go up once more.
"While slightly more than half of Americans are now extremely proud to be an American, more than nine in 10 are at least moderately proud," reported Gallup on Thursday. "This suggests that patriotism is still very much alive in the U.S."
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