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York: Is there a patriotism gap?

Published: Friday, July 11, 2014 9:48 p.m. CDT • Updated: Friday, July 11, 2014 10:00 p.m. CDT

Despite prolonged economic troubles, deep political divisions, headaches abroad, and a sense that the country is on the wrong track, the heartening news this summer is that a majority of people say they often feel proud to be an American.

A new Pew Research Center poll divides the public into seven political categories. There are “steadfast conservatives” who embrace social and small government conservatism.

“Business conservatives” who are more pro-Wall Street. “Young outsiders” who distrust both political parties but hold liberal positions on the environment and social issues. The “next generation left” who are mostly liberal but skeptical about government’s effectiveness. The “faith and family left” who favor an activist government but are somewhat socially conservative. The “hard-pressed skeptics” who are financially stressed, lean Democratic but distrust government. And finally, the “solid liberals” who take the liberal position on pretty much everything.

They’re not terribly religious. According to Pew, 10 percent describe themselves as atheists, nine percent as agnostics, and 22 percent as “nothing in particular.” Together, that is 41 percent who have no religious affiliation at all. Most of the rest aren’t very devout, either.

They voted for Obama more than any other ideological group – 91 percent. Today they give the president a job approval rating of 84 percent – 40 points higher than the public at large. They identify with the Democratic Party more than any of the conservative groups identify with the GOP.

According to Pew, the most conservative Americans are likely to say that honor and duty are their core values. Solid liberals are more likely to say that compassion and helping others are their core values.

Pew researchers tested several ideas with solid liberals to discover their “key beliefs.” Some of the statements they reacted most positively to include: 1) “Stricter environmental laws and regulations are worth the cost.” 2) “Immigrants today strengthen our country because of their hard work and talents.” 3) “Good diplomacy is the best way to ensure peace.” 4) “The U.S. economic system unfairly favors powerful interests.” And 5) “Abortion should be legal in all or most cases.”

They agree with the statement that the United States is a great country, but do not believe it is any greater than some other countries.

Back in 2008, Michelle Obama stirred controversy when she said, “For the first time in my adult life, I am proud of my country.” As the presidential campaign went on, her pride in America was buoyed by her husband’s success – a symbol, to her, of change in the United States.

There seems no doubt the country has changed in the solid liberals’ direction. There is a fledgling national health care system. More economic regulation. New environmental restrictions. A strongly pro-choice administration. A growing immigrant population. That’s a lot of change – in just the last few years. Maybe those solid liberals should feel proud a bit more often.

• Byron York is chief political correspondent for The Washington Examiner.

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