|Graphs by Wall Street Journal and NORC|
How do you define “American”? Twenty-five years ago, you might have said, “patriotism, hard work, family and God,” but those fundamental values are changing, a new poll taken in cooperation with the Wall Street Journal finds. “Some 38% of respondents said patriotism was very important to them, and 39% said religion was very important,” reports Aaron Zitner of the Journal. “That was down sharply from when the Journal first asked the question in 1998, when 70% deemed patriotism to be very important, and 62% said so of religion. . . . younger Americans in particular place low importance on these values, many of which were central to the lives of their parents.”
Poll respondents’ views shed some light on the changes. “Janet Boyer, a former Pentecostal minister who lives in southwestern Pennsylvania’s coal country, patriotism has taken on a political sheen and is no longer important to her,” Zitner reports. Boyer told him, “For me, patriotism has turned into right-wing nationalism.” Zitner adds, “Elana Reiser, a university math teacher in New York, said that other countries rank higher on tests of math performance. She said longer vacations and maternal leaves in some European countries mean they have a better quality of life. Reiser said, “In America, you basically have to work your whole life, and you don’t get breaks.”
The study also found “the country sharply divided by political party over social trends such as the push for racial diversity in businesses and the use of gender-neutral pronouns,” Zitner reports. “It asked whether society had gone far enough—or had gone too far—when it comes to businesses taking steps to promote racial and ethnic diversity. Just over half of Republicans said society had gone too far, compared with 7% of Democrats. Some 61% of Democrats said diversity efforts hadn’t gone far enough, compared with 14% of Republicans.”
It’s not easy to explain the poll’s results, which many may find distressing. “Bill McInturff, a pollster who worked on a previous Journal survey that measured these attitudes along with NBC News, said ‘These differences are so dramatic, it paints a new and surprising portrait of a changing America.’ He surmised that ‘Perhaps the toll of our political division, Covid and the lowest economic confidence in decades is having a startling effect on our core values’,” Zitner writes. “A number of events have shaken and in some ways fractured the nation since the Journal first asked about unifying values, among them the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, the financial crisis of 2008 and subsequent economic downturn and the rise of former President Donald Trump.”
The Journal partnered on the poll with NORC, a nonpartisan research organization at the University of Chicago that was once known as the National Opinion Research Center.