What’s Important to ‘Being American’?

Democrats and Republicans disagree most on speaking English and being born in the United States
People wave American flags during the Capitol Fourth 2015 Independence Day concert at the U.S. Capitol, West Lawn, on July 4, 2015, in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Paul Morigi/Getty Images for Capitol Concerts)
July 03, 2018 at 3:00 pm UTC

As Fourth of July festivities kick off across the country, a new nationwide poll shows what attributes the public deems necessary for being American -- and where partisans disagree the most.

Government officials will be happy to hear that following the law (81 percent), supporting the Constitution (77 percent) and paying taxes (75 percent) topped respondents’ lists for being “very necessary” for being American in the poll, which was conducted July 28-29. Those attributes received majority support from people affiliated with both parties in the survey of 1,990 registered voters.

But ideals connected to immigration and diversity splintered the public along party lines. Republicans and Democrats disagreed the most on the ability to speak English and being born in the country or one of its territories.

In these two cases, Republicans held these values much higher than Democrats did, with at least 50 percent of the GOP saying these ideals are very necessary to being American.

In contrast, Democrats were more likely than Republicans or independents to prize supporting equal opportunity for all as a key characteristic of being American, with 78 percent of Democrats choosing that option.

Political divisiveness also emerged when voters were asked specifically whether certain acts are patriotic. A slim majority (51 percent) of Democrats said someone who disobeys a law that he or she believes is wrong can still be patriotic, but most Republicans (54 percent) said the opposite, according to the poll, which has a margin of error of plus or minus 2 percentage points.

Seventy-eight percent of Republicans said people who kneel in protest during the national anthem are not patriotic, while 62 percent of Democrats said they are.

A headshot photograph of Joanna Piacenza
Joanna Piacenza
Head of Industry Analysis

Joanna Piacenza leads Industry Analysis at Morning Consult. Prior to joining Morning Consult, she was an editor at the Public Religion Research Institute, conducting research at the intersection of religion, culture and public policy. Joanna graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and mass communications and holds a master’s degree in religious studies from the University of Colorado Boulder. For speaking opportunities and booking requests, please email [email protected].

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