How Do We Measure Patriotism?

When the fireworks are over and the last hot dog gulped down, we have a few quiet moments to think about the real meaning of the Fourth of July. It is an opportunity to honor the United States and express our pride in the ideals it represents.  It’s a time to be patriotic. But what does that really mean?

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines patriotism as, “love for or devotion to one’s country.” What does patriotism look like?  How do we express it?  The Pew Research Center for the People & the Press suggests that for many people, demonstrating patriotism means showing the flag of the United States.  Overall, 62% of Americans say they display the flag at home, in the office, or on their car, according to Pew’s political values survey (Jan., 2007).  This number has fallen somewhat since the period following Sept. 11 when 75% of those surveyed displayed a flag (Aug., 2002). Does this mean patriotism diminished or simply that fewer people felt compelled to show it – with a flag?

Patriotism, as measured by flag display, varies by gender, age, geography, socio-economic status, educational achievement and even political persuasion. For example, in the Pew study, men display the flag 65% of the time; women: 59%.  People over age 65 are considerably more likely to display the flag than those ages 18-29 (71% to 51%).  Americans living in the Midwest and Northeast show flags 67-69% of the time, while those living in the South and West are less likely to do so (57-58%).  And so it goes.  Again, are the feelings of patriotism so different, or is it simply the desire to SHOW patriotism that varies?

Flag display frequency is only one way to gauge patriotism.  In a USA/Gallup poll (June 11-13, 2010), when asked to describe their level of patriotism, 74% of Americans said they were “extremely” or “very” patriotic (the difference in these words was left to the respondent’s interpretation).  This figure has been consistent since 2002 (post Sept. 11 attacks) – 7 in 10 Americans describing themselves as “extremely” or “very” patriotic.  And yet, this is 12% higher than those who say they display a flag! 

Clearly, the majority of Americans think of themselves as patriotic, but not as many feel the need to “show” it with a flag. In fact, many Americans only display their pride – and flag – on holidays. 

 What kind of a patriot are you?   One who shows your pride or one who thinks it?

Contact All The King’s Flags with any questions you might have about flags and flag display:

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