The article was originally published in Discourse Magazine.
The data show that love of country correlates with optimism about the future, which facilitates positive change.
Surveys show that patriotism is unpopular among progressives. To many of them, love of country is a divisive and backward-looking sentiment that stands in the way of progress. The reality, however, is just the opposite: Patriotism can promote the type of shared national identity and optimistic mindset that facilitates progress. If we want to build a better tomorrow, we need Americans on the left, right and in between to adopt a patriotic attitude.
The Progressive Patriotism Problem
Most Americans claim to be patriotic. For example, according to a 2021 Gallup survey, 87% of Republicans, 65% of independents and 62% of Democrats report that they are extremely or very proud to be American. A study I conducted in 2020 found that the vast majority of Americans—across political, gender, racial and income categories—are proud to be American. Other surveys paint a similar picture of Americans generally united by national pride. While they are increasingly distrustful of many institutions and are concerned about the future of the nation, they remain grateful and proud to be American.
But this patriotism is not shared by many on the progressive left. A 2020 report from More in Common indicates that only 34% of progressive activists are proud to be American. However, because progressive activists increasingly dominate academic institutions and popular media outlets, their negative attitude may have an outsized effect in undermining patriotism among young Americans.