The United States of America has been called many things throughout history. It’s been called the land of opportunity, it’s been called the land of the free and home of the brave, it’s been called the greatest country in the world, and it’s been called the world’s policeman.
However, while those are all fairly familiar characterizations of the United States, how many Americans really believe them? How many Americans actually agree with those sentiments. In these interesting political times, we thought it would be telling to see how Americans feel about such characterizations.
In order to find out, we conducted a survey of 500 adult Americans (randomly selected to be statistically representative of the national population). The results are shown below (as are the sentiments we tested).
The United States is the Land of Opportunity
Overall, 77% of those surveyed agreed that the United States is the land of opportunity.
No significant differences were found between the attitudes held by men vs. women (78% vs. 76%, respectively). However, age seemed to be a factor, as we found those below the age of 44 were less likely to agree that the United States is the land of opportunity when compared to those 45 and above (72% vs. 93%, respectively), suggesting that – at least for some younger Americans – the promise of America still remains outside their grasp. On the other hand, despite this gap, a clear majority of even those below the age of 45 (72%) agreed with this sentiment.
While the 21-point gap above is telling, an even larger gap exists between liberals and conservatives, with 63% of liberals agreeing with the statement that the United States is the land of opportunity vs. 93% of conservatives. Seventy-nine (79%) of those who identify themselves as being “middle-of-the-road” agree with the statement.
A Strong United States Helps Maintain World Stability
The idea that a strong United States helps maintain stability in the world is often talked about in the media and by politicians, with allies looking to the United States for global leadership. A majority of Americans would agree – our poll found two-thirds (63%) of those surveyed agreeing that a strong United States helps maintain world stability.
Men were slightly more likely than women to agree with that (68% vs. 60%), while younger Americans were again less likely to believe this (57% of those under 45 vs. 77%, among those 45+). By political leanings, conservatives were more likely than others to agree that a strong United States help maintain world stability (conservatives – 77%, liberals – 51% and middle-of-the-road – 66%).
The United States is the Land of the Free and Home of the Brave
These words come directly from the Star-Spangled Banner, the national anthem of the United States. Written over 200 years ago by lawyer and poet Francis Scott Key, these words have become ingrained in the American psyche and are part of the fabric of American history.
Our poll shows that 61% of Americans agree that the United States is the land of the free and home of the brave, with both men and women agreeing on an equal basis (61% vs. 62%, respectively). As we saw before, age is a factor here, with those under the age of 45 being less likely than their older counterparts to hold this sentiment. However, here too, majorities agreed – among those under the age of 45, 57% agreed vs. 69% of those over the age of 45.
The biggest differences in opinion once again assert themselves through the lens of political affiliation – those who self-identify as liberals were almost half as likely as those who self-identify as conservatives to agree that the United States is the land of the free and home of the brave, with those who consider themselves to be middle-of-the-road types were somewhere in the middle (44% for liberals, 85% for conservatives and 61% for middle-of-the-roaders).
The United States is the Greatest Country in the World
Many speeches have been made proclaiming the United States to be the greatest country in the world, greatest country on earth or greatest country in the history of humankind.
Perhaps times are changing, because as of July 2017, less than half of Americans (46%) believe this to be true.
Women are slightly more likely than men to believe this (47% vs. 43%), while an 18-point gap exists between those who are under 45 vs. those who are older (40% vs. 48%, respectively).
A huge 51-point gap exists between liberals and conservatives – three quarters (76%) of those who identify as conservatives agree that the United States is the greatest country in the world vs. just a quarter (25%) of those who say they are liberals. Those who say they lean middle-of-the-road come in at 43%.
If It Wasn’t for the United States, the World Would Be in Worse Condition Than It Is Today
Testing how people feel the United States influences the condition of the world at large, we found that 46% of Americans believe that the United States is a positive force in the world – with the question suggesting that if the United States didn’t exist, things would be worse globally than they are today.
More men believe this to be true than women, with 52% of men saying they agree with this statement vs. 42% of women.
By age, here too, younger people are less likely to agree with this statement, with 39% of those under the age of 45 saying they agree vs. 67% of those who are older.
A large 36-point gap exists between liberals and conservatives, with 31% of liberals agreeing with this statement vs. 67% of conservatives. Forty-five percent (45%) of those who say they are middle-of-the-road politically agree with the statement.
The United States Helps Keep the Peace in the World
The United States as global policeman is a commonly heard way of characterizing the United States’ roll in the world. We tested that somewhat differently, by asking if the United States helps keep the peace in the world. Overall, 45% said yes, the United States does help keep the peace in the world, with 55% of men agreeing vs. 39% of women.
Looking at responses by age, we found again that younger Americans were less likely than those older to hold this view, with the breakout being 42% agreement among those under the age of 45 vs. 51% of those older.
The political divide, once again, seemed to be the most insurmountable, with 32% of liberals agreeing with that statement vs. 71% of conservatives (37% among middle-of-the-roaders).
The United States is the Only Country You Would Ever Want to Live In
Finally, we asked survey participants if they agreed that the United States was the only country they would ever want to live in. Just one in three (35%) said yes, while the majority would consider living elsewhere.
Women were somewhat more likely than men to want to only live in the United States (38% vs. 31%), while younger Americas were more likely to entertain an adventure in a different country (29% said yes among those under the age of 45 vs. 49% among those older).
Looking at how people answered this question vs their political leanings, we found conservatives much more likely than either liberals or middle-of-the-road types to say that the United States is the only country they’d ever want to live in (63% – conservatives, 22% – liberals, 26% – middle-of-the-road).
We found that on most of the ideas we tested, men and women were pretty much in agreement. Only when asking if the United States helps keep the peace in the world did we find a two digit gender gap (16-point gap) – with men more likely than women to believe this.
Other (but less significant) gender gaps were found between men and women, with women more likely than men to say that the USA is the only country they’d want to live in, and with men more likely to say that the United States helps maintain world stability and its positive influence in the world.
On all the statements tested, younger people were less likely to agree than their older counterparts.
With 2-digit gaps, the closest agreement between these two groups appeared when testing beliefs regarding the USA’s role as a peace keeper and whether or not the USA is the land of the free and home of the brave. The biggest disagreement was evident when testing whether or not Americas felt that the USA is an overall positive global influence or not.
Lastly, the largest gaps in opinion were found to exist between liberals and conservatives.
Overall, liberals were significantly less likely to believe that the United States is the greatest country in the world, to say that the United States is the only country they’ want to live in, and that the US is the land of the free and home of the brave. Liberals were also less likely to believe that the United States has a positive influence on the world and that it helps maintain peace in the world.
Even so, a majority of liberals still believe that the United States is the land of opportunity (63%) and that a strong United States helps maintain world stability (51%).
While the political gaps seem to be the hardest to overcome and bridge with mutual understanding, undoubtedly both sides want what’s best for the United States – the question at large being how to go about doing that.