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Tuesday, December 21, 2010

American Exceptionalism and Partisan Politics

Susan Page writes at USA Today:
It might as well be the national anthem: America the Exceptional.

From the days of the Revolution to the moon landing two centuries later, the idea that the United States is different from and better than anyplace else on Earth has rallied its citizens and propelled its aspirations. Eighty percent of Americans in a USA TODAY/Gallup Poll say they believe the country has a unique character and unrivaled standing — a higher degree of national unanimity than on any current policy issue.

Now that historic trope is being wielded as a modern political weapon. Republicans, including a string of prospective presidential contenders, have taken their objections to President Obama's policies to a provocative and controversial level. Over White House objections, they're accusing him of not embracing the concept of American exceptionalism, saying he is pursuing an agenda on health care, the economy and foreign affairs that is at odds with fundamentals that distinguish the United States.


Because of its history and Constitution, do you think the United States has a unique character that makes it the greatest country in the world?

Yes: 80%
No: 18%
No opinion: 2%

Those more likely than average to say "yes"
-- Republicans
-- $50,000-$75,000 annual income
-- Conservatives
-- 65 and older
-- Married
-- Men
-- College graduate only
-- Moderates

Those less likely than average to say "yes"
-- 18 to 29 years old
-- Independents
-- Unmarried
-- Women
-- Less than $20,000 annual income
-- Democrats
-- Post-graduate education
-- Liberals

(Asked of those who said "yes")

Is the United States at risk of losing its unique character?

Yes: 77%
No: 22%
No opinion: 1%

Does the United States have a special responsibility to be the leading nation in world affairs?

Yes: 66%
No: 31%
No opinion: 3%

Percentage who said each president believes or believed the United States has a unique character that makes it the greatest country in the world:

Ronald Reagan: 86%
Bill Clinton: 77%
George W. Bush: 74%
Barack Obama: 58%

Source: USA TODAY/Gallup Poll of 1,019 adults taken by land line and cellphone Dec. 10-12. Margin of error: ±4 percentage points.