Via John Fund, the partisan split is predictable. What’s striking is how divided independents are. If you imagine indies as a roughly even mishmash of left-leaning and right-leaning centrists (and maybe you shouldn’t imagine them that way, as many far lefties and far righties also identify as independents), you’d expect them to be split sharply on many issues.
But the president’s patriotism?
Maybe all that proves is that Obama’s knack for polarization along partisan lines extends even to “leaners” and even to questions like this. Or maybe, per Fund, it proves that he really does have a problem with voters perceiving him as less patriotic than other presidents.
As usual, the race/age data is interesting, although you run into an issue about hidden partisanship here too. Here’s the racial split on whether Obama loves America. A narrow plurality of whites say no:
The age divide is sharp as well:
Young adults believe overwhelmingly that Obama loves America. Their grandparents, by a margin of eight points, say nope. You can interpret that result in at least three ways. One: Racism. Obama hasn’t said anything about America that should call his basic patriotism into question. Whites and older Americans simply don’t trust a black man to love his country as much as they do a white one. Two: Ideology. Whites and older Americans skew Republican and conservative while blacks and young adults skew Democratic and liberal. Go figure then that Republican constituencies would see a liberal who wants to “fundamentally transform” America as less patriotic than liberals do. Three: A compromise position, proposed by some lefty writers over the last week, is that Obama does indeed speak more critically about America than previous presidents have — but what can you expect when, as a black man, he’s part of a minority that’s suffered the most from America’s greatest failing? It would be weird if the first black president wasn’t more critical of America than his predecessors, which is not to say he doesn’t love the country despite its faults.
Which interpretation is the correct one? As more food for thought, here are the race results when you ask whether O is more patriotic, equally patriotic, or less patriotic than most people in public life.
A near majority of whites say he’s less patriotic. Again, is that because they’re white or because they’re mostly Republican? The age data:
An actual majority of seniors say he’s less patriotic, which is also the plurality position for the 45-64 group. The frustrating thing about a poll like this is that it’s hard to judge what to make of the numbers without a baseline. If you’re going to poll on O’s patriotism, you’ve got to poll on George W. Bush’s patriotism as well. Ideally, you’d also poll on Hillary Clinton’s patriotism. If it turns out Democrats are roughly as likely to doubt Bush’s love of country as Republicans are to doubt O’s, the case for partisanship as an explanation here is stronger. If it turns out Republicans are roughly as likely to doubt Hillary’s love of country as they are to doubt O’s, the case for racism as an explanation is weaker. As it is, the only other pol whom YouGov tested was Rudy Giuliani himself, who was in fact more likely to be perceived as patriotic than Obama was — 58/10 (including 54 percent of Democrats) versus 47/35 for Obama. That’s interesting, but comparing public opinion about a sitting president of the U.S. to a guy who was mayor of New York 13 years ago is an imperfect comparison, to put it mildly. Gotta give us some presidential or near-presidential benchmarks to help us get a better hold on this data.