Poll: Americans believe in American exceptionalism, not as sure about Obama

In a new Gallup poll, 80 percent of those surveyed say they believe the United States, because of its history and Constitution, “has a unique character that makes it the greatest country in the world.”  But a significantly smaller number, 58 percent, think President Obama also believes in American exceptionalism, while 37 percent specifically say he does not believe America is exceptional.

More Republicans than Democrats believe in American exceptionalism. Gallup found that 91 percent of Republicans say they believe in American exceptionalism, while 77 percent of independents and 73 percent of Democrats say the same thing.

Smaller but still significant majorities believe the United States has a “special responsibility to be the leading nation in world affairs.”  Sixty-six percent say the U.S. has that responsibility, while 31 percent say it does not.  Among Republicans, 73 percent say the U.S. has a special responsibility, while 64 percent of independents and 61 percent of Democrats agree.

Gallup also found that many people who believe in American exceptionalism worry that it is endangered — 75 percent of those who believe America is exceptional say “the U.S. is currently at risk of losing its unique character.”

Respondents say more recent presidents believe less in American exceptionalism than more distant ones.  For example, 86 percent of respondents say Ronald Reagan believed in American exceptionalism, while 77 percent say Bill Clinton did, and 74 percent say George W. Bush did.  (For reasons that are not clear, Gallup did not include information on George H.W. Bush).  For Obama, the number is 58 percent.

The Obama figure likely reflects the fact that the president himself has downplayed American exceptionalism. “I believe in American exceptionalism, just as I suspect that the Brits believe in British exceptionalism and the Greeks believe in Greek exceptionalism,” he said during a trip to Europe in April 2009.

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