Poll finds diminishing American pride in the Trump era

Trump has boasted that he's "restoring" American "pride." It's a nice idea, but there's evidence suggesting his presidency has had the opposite effect.
Image: President Donald Trump walks on the South Lawn of the White House after stepping off Marine One
President Donald Trump walks on the South Lawn of the White House after stepping off Marine One, Sunday, May 3, 2020, in Washington. Trump is returning from a trip to Camp David, Md.Patrick Semansky / AP
Get the Msnbc newsletter.
SUBSCRIBE
By Steve Benen

Throughout his brief career in politics, Donald Trump tends to talk about his vision in broad strokes. The president, indifferent toward governing and public policy, has talked up vague goals. What does Trump want? To promote some amorphous sense of "greatness." To make the United States "tremendous" in ways he's unable to identify, but we're supposed to intuitively understand.

Trump spoke to the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in 2018 and boasted, "[W]e're restoring our confidence and our pride." It spoke to the thematic point of his message: the president has spent much of his term telling people that he's successfully brought a degree of swagger to American patriotism.

As NBC News' Benjy Sarlin noted this morning, "Trump's never been a narrow policy guy, but to the extent he had an overarching campaign promise I'd say 'restoring pride in America' was one."

And yet, the president appears to have failed quite spectacularly on this front.

American pride has continued its downward trajectory reaching the lowest point in the two decades of Gallup measurement. The new low comes at a time when the U.S. faces public health and economic crises brought on by the coronavirus pandemic and civil unrest following the death of George Floyd in police custody.

It would be an overstatement to say Americans' national pride has completely collapsed. In fact, a majority of the country still say they are proud to be Americans.

But it's the trajectory that's so striking: Gallup has been polling on this question every year for two decades, and the results have been relatively steady, with between 81% and 92% of the country saying they were "extremely proud" or "very proud" to be an American.

That number slid to 75% in 2017 -- Trump's first year in office -- and proceeded to slide a bit lower every year since, including 63% this year.

For historical purposes, it's difficult to compare this number to previous eras that may have produced similar results. Gallup's report doesn't include, for example, data from the Watergate era.

But the poll's results point to a certain Trump-era malaise that's the opposite of the effect he expected to have.

Complicating matters for the White House and its allies, the shifts are not explicitly partisan. Gallup's report added, "Republicans have historically been more likely than Democrats and independents to say they are extremely proud to be American throughout the past 20 years. Although Republicans still report more acute pride than Democrats and independents, the latest poll finds a 9-percentage-point decrease in Republicans' national pride. This marks the largest year-over-year decline in the percentage of Republicans who say they are extremely proud."

Trump is "restoring our confidence and our pride"? It's a nice idea, but there's data pointing in the opposite direction.