Numbers, Facts and Trends Shaping Your World

A generational gap in American patriotism

Characterized by fireworks, barbecues and a trio of American colors, Independence Day commemorates United States history and celebrates patriotism. But a 2011 Pew Research report identified a significant generation gap in views about American exceptionalism and patriotism.

When Americans were asked if they think the United States is the greatest country in the world, there were sharp differences in the responses across generations. In total, 48% of Americans believe the United States is the greatest country in the world and 42% believe it is one of the greatest countries in the world, but a significant portion of the Millennial generation responded differently.


Just 32% of Millennials believe the U.S. is the greatest country in the world. That number progressively increases among the Gen X (48%), Boomer (50%) and Silent generations (64%). Millennials were also the most likely generation to say America is not the greatest country in the world (11%).

Millennials also are less likely than their elders to express patriotism. A majority of Millennials (70%) agreed with the statement “I am very patriotic.” But even larger percentages of Gen Xers (86%), Boomers (91%) and Silents (90%) said the same. This generational gap is consistent and has been identified in surveys dating back to 2003.

Despite their comparatively low level of patriotism, Millennials are more optimistic about the nation’s current state of affairs as well as its future. Compared to Boomers and Silents, a slightly greater percentage of Millennials (55%) and Gen Xers (55%) think the country’s best days are ahead. In total, half of Americans (51%) say that’s the case.

The survey also found a cross-generational common ground in views about the factors that have led to America’s success. More than 90% of respondents from each generation said the country’s freedoms – more than any other factor – have been very important in contributing to America’s success.