Polls: Is America exceptional?
September 12th, 2013
11:01 AM ET
1 year ago

Polls: Is America exceptional?

Updated 9/12/13 11:46 a.m. ET
Washington (CNN) – It's not just President Barack Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin who don't see eye to eye over the idea of American "exceptionalism." Polling suggests that the U.S. public's also divided over American exceptionalism.

While no recent polling appears to have asked specifically about the term "American exceptionalism," some surveys over the past few years have asked questions about America's position and role in the world.

Forty-eight percent of those questioned in a Pew Research Survey in 2011 said that the United States was the greatest country in the world, with 42% saying the U.S. was one of the greatest countries and 8% saying the U.S. was not a great country.

The poll indicated a wide generational divide, with 65% of those 65 and older saying the U.S was the world's greatest country. But that number dropped to 50% for those 35-64 and to 34% for people 18-34. There was also a partisan divide, with 63% of Republicans saying the U.S. was the greatest country in the world. That number dropped to 46% among Democrats and 41% among independents.

In 2011, Pew also asked Americans to agree or disagree with the statement, "our people are not perfect, but our culture is superior to others." Forty-nine percent said yes, with 46% saying no. The percentage of those touting America's cultural superiority was down 11 points from 2002.

Of course, the wording of a question greatly impacts the answer. A Gallup poll from 2010 asked "because of the United States' history and its Constitution, do you think the U.S. has a unique character that makes it the greatest country in the world?"

Eighty percent answered yes, with just 18% disagreeing.

ALSO SEE:
Vladimir Putin's comments on American exceptionalism, Syria cause a fuss

CNN Political Editor Paul Steinhauser contributed to this report


Filed under: Polls
soundoff (262 Responses)
  1. Data Driven

    Oh for Pete's sake. Are really going to obsess on this today?

    First Rule of Debate Club: if you get mad, you lose. The wise, nay, the only thing to do here is brush off Putin's comments as smack-talk designed for his citizens and his own ego.

    Let it go, America. #hypersensitive much?

    September 12, 2013 11:07 am at 11:07 am |
  2. just saying

    we used to be exceptional before obama took office and went on his apology tour and stated we have just been bullies and acting people all over the world.

    and now he wants to do exactly that in syria. we may never recover from 8 years of obama, economically and on the foreign policy front. he mad eus a laughing stock around the globe with his open displays of waffling and weakness.

    September 12, 2013 11:09 am at 11:09 am |
  3. much thunder..little rain

    not any more ...the bar has been lowered so we call can feel good...i heard two men talking not long ago and they were say "a least my son not been in jail"...sad...they were happy with that..not one graduating from school..Putin is right.. average at best its the dumbing of america...drip..drip..drip..just a small peice at a time

    September 12, 2013 11:09 am at 11:09 am |
  4. boungiorno

    if it weren't for Cheney and Bush antics AMERICA THE BEAUTIFUL would of healed quickly but now from the present agenda going on she may not come around and recover as quickly

    September 12, 2013 11:10 am at 11:10 am |
  5. rs

    The idea of "American Exceptionalism" is a primitive ideology that has been used by the GOP as a weapon against it's opponents- a sort of this century's version of "America: love it or leave it". Patriotism is one thing- all Americans to some extent love and revere our nation (just as citizens of all nations do theirs), but the "exceptionalism" as pandered by the TEA Party and lackluster thinkers like Sarah Palin as part of the "with us or against us" confrontational behavior- the combative and black vs. white process that has marked the destructive Republican positions of late on almost every front.
    That Mr. Obama used exceptionalism in his speech the other evening (I think) was a jab at those who throw it around blithely on the Right for their own use. Either we're exceptional, or we aren't- like adhering to the law or the Constitution, we don't get to pick the times when we are "exceptional". The Right got called out for what they are- anti-American obstructionists.

    September 12, 2013 11:11 am at 11:11 am |
  6. G

    if i look at all the happy-happy in lybia,afganistan,iraq,egypt ,there has to be another word

    September 12, 2013 11:13 am at 11:13 am |
  7. rs

    just saying

    we used to be exceptional before obama took office and went on his apology tour and stated we have just been bullies and acting people all over the world.
    ____________________________
    Utter nonsense from the Right- especially after the disaster that was G.W. Bush's Administration.

    September 12, 2013 11:13 am at 11:13 am |
  8. Wilson

    I have never been a fan of Putin, but in this case he is right.
    $

    September 12, 2013 11:15 am at 11:15 am |
  9. ghostwriter

    RS, I disagree. America is the greatest country on the planet. Now, does that give us the right to do what we please? No way. And there's the problem. Republicans have used that ideology to promote their own goals.

    September 12, 2013 11:22 am at 11:22 am |
  10. Lynda/Minnesota

    Oh good. Another poll. And another poll. And another poll. Ad nauseum.

    September 12, 2013 11:23 am at 11:23 am |
  11. GIJOE

    we have all heard of wife swapping, is it possible to swap Obama for Putin because clearly Putin is a much better leader than Obama. Obama appears to have no concept of strategic foreign policy thinking, no idea of how to manage the economy and who sole interest is in Saul Olynsky socialism and radical environmentalism.
    Remember Vote for NO democrats in 2014!!

    September 12, 2013 11:24 am at 11:24 am |
  12. Jocho Johnson

    We have potential to be this exceptional nation that is getting wasted because of a federal government especially a Senate filled with fools.

    September 12, 2013 11:24 am at 11:24 am |
  13. John

    Yep....were exceptional alright.....especially when it comes to our ongoing meddling in the Middle East (of course that's why they hate us over there and we now have to worry about terrorist attacks that we brought on ourselves)....were exceptionally stupid at times. We just don seem to learn....however, that can't be the only reason....has to be someone's agenda to keep meddling over there at the expense of the country....our bought off many members of Congress seems to be deal.

    September 12, 2013 11:26 am at 11:26 am |
  14. Rudy NYC

    "Polls: Is America exceptional?"
    ----------------------
    I can't even tell you what that is supposed to mean. I first heard the phrase "American exceptionalism" coming out of the mouths of conservatives as if they were practicing reciting the Pledge of Allegiance. To me is just a word salad that makes people willing to be led by the nose feel good about themselves.

    September 12, 2013 11:26 am at 11:26 am |
  15. Alex

    yes we are special, but it's a mistake to believe that we don't make mistakes.

    September 12, 2013 11:27 am at 11:27 am |
  16. vicki

    I total and 110% agree with rs just saying we used to be exceptional before obama took office and went on his apology tour and stated we have just been bullies and acting people all over the world.

    September 12, 2013 11:27 am at 11:27 am |
  17. vicki

    GIJOE, I totally agre with you!

    September 12, 2013 11:28 am at 11:28 am |
  18. S.B. Stein

    What I will say is that there are many Americans that are exceptional (good and bad). The problem is that Putin (and by extention Russia) isn't one to talk. He (and the government he controls) don't allow the freedoms that we do. To charge a punk music group with "hooliganism" because they denouced the leader is a sign that it is no longer a free country; don't think it ever was. With Putin also having military confilcts in mulitple parts of the country (and nearby) doesn't show me that he has the high moral ground.

    There are problems here in the US. We've had a cultural shift that doesn't highly prize education, hard work and long term thinking any more. That has lower the education that people have and how educated we as a country are. There is too much of the "me, me" attitude as well as the "I'm only for me" libertarian persepctive. We all need to realize that we aren't all going to be movie stars, amazing athletes or singers that people want to emulate. Too many people are looking to high and thinking that they can get there with no work.

    September 12, 2013 11:29 am at 11:29 am |
  19. Tony

    Like all other nations on earth, the U.S. thinks it is exceptional.

    September 12, 2013 11:31 am at 11:31 am |
  20. ken andrews

    The USA is exceptional. We are a magnet for immigrants, including Russian immigrants. Our constitution is not perfect; our laws are not perfect; our citiznes are not perfect. But we are a lot better than any other place I have been or have read about.

    September 12, 2013 11:32 am at 11:32 am |
  21. John

    What this country needs is a "Dome" (reference the TV series) over Washington, DC with all the politicians stuck inside.....that would be exceptional :)

    September 12, 2013 11:32 am at 11:32 am |
  22. Rigs

    If you are saying Obama has more to do with America losing greatness than Bush does than you can't possibly expect anyone to take you seriously

    September 12, 2013 11:33 am at 11:33 am |
  23. vicki

    Obama bending and kissing the hand of the Saudi. How many American presidents have you seen doing that in the past? He is a community organizer and needs to go back to Chicago ASAP! We need a Leader not a socialist.....shame on the people that voted for him. See where you all have gotten us? Maybe or no you all should go back with him to Chicago.

    September 12, 2013 11:33 am at 11:33 am |
  24. Cephus

    When it comes to vast natural resources, highly skilled workforce, and efficient, effective military yes America is still exceptional! However, we have become copy cats of the Dutch and the French lifestyle.

    September 12, 2013 11:33 am at 11:33 am |
  25. just asking

    we're not exceptional now and will never be exceptional again with democrats running the country into the ground and bankruptcy. our military power can only be maintained with a thriving growing economy. obama in the white hosue and democrats controlling the senate guarantees that will not happen. putin rightly senses weakness an dis pouncing to further russians objectives. we have a weak president that can't make his mind up about anything but his tee off time.

    September 12, 2013 11:33 am at 11:33 am |
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