DURHAM, NC—Confirming that the vast majority of U.S. citizens possess either too much or too little patriotism, a new study released Wednesday by researchers at Duke University has found that only 5 percent of Americans feel the correct amount of pride in their country.
The three-year study, which analyzed thousands of casual conversations, online discussions, exchanges at family gatherings, and parade attendance records, concluded that Americans routinely fail to display a level of patriotic sentiment that reflects a balanced appreciation of what makes the United States great as well as what makes it flawed.
“When it comes to expressing national pride, it turns out that only one in 20 Americans gets it right,” study co-author Chris Verbeek said of the small subset of citizens who show an evident level of patriotism for their native land, but who know not to go overboard with it. “Among the remaining 95 percent, a great many feel too little pride in their country, believing the United States is nothing more than an uncaring international bully that’s effectively responsible for all of the world’s problems. And simultaneously, you have people who are so incredibly proud of America they seem to think they’re actually living in a perfect, shining city upon a hill.”
“As it turns out, those who engage in over-the-top, borderline aggressive displays of patriotism and those who endlessly vocalize their disdain for America without once stopping to appreciate that this country grants them the right to dissent in the first place are both off the mark,” he added. “Indeed, we found that having an appreciable, but tempered, amount of pride in the United States is a rarity among the general populace.”
According to the study, approximately 74 million Americans exhibit a degree of pride so excessive that any criticism of U.S. policy causes them to angrily state that people who do not love the country ought to leave it. But the report confirmed this group was matched in size by those whose pride is so deficient that they steer nearly every conversation back to the subject of the nation’s shortcomings, loudly declaring it to be so irreversibly broken that they would be better off moving their family to Canada, or perhaps Scandinavia.
Researchers discovered that individuals in the first category make a point of telling others they only buy products made in the United States, reflexively and repeatedly refer to the U.S. as the “greatest nation on earth,” and pay their bills with patriotically themed personalized checks. The other group, meanwhile, reportedly challenges anyone who professes happiness at living in the United States, vehemently refuses to recognize Columbus Day, and rolls their eyes at most personal displays of the American flag.
“Among those with inappropriately low levels of patriotism, the most extreme refuse to stand for the national anthem at sporting events, while the more moderate stand but are generally annoyed at having to wait if it’s a particularly long rendition of the song,” Verbeek said. “At the same time, those overly proud of their nationality will sing along and often badger complete strangers to remove their hats during the song, with many going so far as to visibly tear up if the anthem is followed by a performance of Lee Greenwood’s ‘God Bless The U.S.A.’”
The study also noted that the percentage of U.S. citizens who possess exactly the right amount of love and admiration for their country has fallen sharply in recent decades and currently stands at an all-time low, having declined from a record peak of 36 percent in 1776.
Ultimately, Verbeek explained, fewer Americans than ever seem capable of feeling good about where they’re from without also believing the place of their birth makes them more important than everyone else.
“According to our findings, those with a correct sense of pride in the United States genuinely appreciate the Founding Fathers but don’t mythologize them, enjoy Fourth of July festivities, and during their lifetime visit at least four national monuments, one of which must be the Lincoln Memorial,” Verbeek said. “In addition, they find the bald eagle to be majestic but don’t feel their heart swell every time they see a picture of one.”
“And notably, we found that Americans with the proper amount of pride each own one pair of star-spangled pants,” he added. “No more, no less.”