Poll: Does Obama think U.S. is exceptional?
December 22nd, 2010
10:00 AM ET
12 years ago

Poll: Does Obama think U.S. is exceptional?

Washington (CNN) - The vast majority of Americans see the United States as exceptional, according to a new national poll. But a Gallup poll released Wednesday also indicates that nearly four in ten say they believe President Barack Obama doesn't hold this same view.

Eight out of ten people questioned in the survey say that based on the country's history and constitution, the U.S. has a unique character that makes it the greatest country in the world. The poll suggests there's no partisan divide on the question, with 73 percent of Democrats, 77 percent of independents and 91 percent of Republicans in agreement.

According to the poll, 58 percent say Obama believes that the U.S. is exceptional, with 37 percent saying they disagree. But the survey indicates Americans are less likely to believe Obama holds this view than they are to think the same about Ronald Reagan (86 percent), Bill Clinton (77 percent), and George W. Bush (74 percent).

The poll does suggest Democrats and Republicans don't see eye to eye, with 83 percent of Democrats and 34 percent of Republicans questioned saying Obama believes the country is exceptional.

At a NATO summit in France last year, the president said, "I believe in American exceptionalism, just as I suspect that the Brits believe in British exceptionalism and the Greeks believe in Greek exceptionalism."

Those comments have sparked debate, with some of the Republicans who may make a bid for the next GOP presidential nomination highlighting that U.S. is exceptional but that its status is currently being threatened.

"This could be an issue in the 2012 presidential campaign," says an analysis by Gallup, in the survey's release. "Given that Americans already believe that the U.S. is exceptional and that its status as the greatest nation in the world is at risk, Republican candidates' political challenge would be to convince voters that Obama's policies and actions on the world stage are to blame, and that he does not share their values on this issue."

The Gallup poll was conducted December 10-12, with 1,019 adults nationwide questioned by telephone. The survey's overall sampling error is plus or minus four percentage points.

Filed under: Polls • President Obama
soundoff (25 Responses)
  1. Dustin

    Are we really exceptional now? I love America and thank god that I was born in this country, but that doesn't mean that everything we do as a nation is great. Have we forgotten about the financial meltdown? Guantanamo? Are these things to be proud of? Just because you recognize the flaws that we have as a nation and try to fix them doesn't mean your un-American. Don't we pride ourselves on improving?

    December 22, 2010 10:08 am at 10:08 am |
  2. Tony in Maine

    We are no better, we are no worse than any other country in the world. This does not translate to a lack of pride in my country. This is a statement of fact. My God does not choose one people – or one person – over another. What we are doing in Afghanistan and Iraq is very much like shoveling the tide – an exercise in futility. Those countries have a culture of their own and a government that reflects that culture. Forcing 21st century US values on a tribesman in a remote valley in a remote country is the ultimate in arrogance. Our mission there was to get bin Laden. We blew it at Tora Bora.

    FWIW – I enlisted and happily served my country. I do not think war or force should be the first or even the second option to settle disputes. It is the option of last resort or to react to a violent act directed against us. Pre-emptive war is against everything the United States I served stood for.

    December 22, 2010 10:08 am at 10:08 am |
  3. kyactivist

    American exceptionalism is a cancerous, jingoistic belief that we are holier than all other nations. We certainly are not the worst, but national arrogance is not helpful.

    December 22, 2010 10:13 am at 10:13 am |
  4. once upon a horse

    ah yes the old "ugly American" debate rears it's head again. This is just another ploy by the Republicans to say that President Obama is NOT one of us and is un-American, paint him to be an outsider and people like Gingrich are aware that they can get the fear follwers to go along with it. Many times President Obama has defended America as a country that doesn't back down, he loves his nation and proud to be an American.

    December 22, 2010 10:16 am at 10:16 am |
  5. Don Beal

    I imagine that citizens of many countries think their own country is exceptional. How about it, Canadians? Norwegians? Swiss? Scots? Anybody?

    December 22, 2010 10:25 am at 10:25 am |
  6. GL

    The poll does suggest Democrats and Republicans don't see eye to eye, with 83 percent of Democrats and 34 percent of Republicans questioned saying Obama believes the country is exceptional.

    December 22, 2010 10:28 am at 10:28 am |
  7. Virginia Nielsen in FLORIDA

    Of course he thinks we're the best but also he recognizes our few mistakes... He is one of the results of this exceptionality !!!
    GO PREZ !!!

    December 22, 2010 10:34 am at 10:34 am |
  8. Fed Up in Texas

    Don't the 6 out of 10 who believe President Obama thinks America is exceptional count? Or is it just the obvious
    'tear down the President at any cost Republicans' 4 out of 10 that are important. More pathetic planning from the
    people who would be Kings roster.

    December 22, 2010 10:34 am at 10:34 am |
  9. R. U. Sano

    You betcha they're 'exceptional ' Without such a demented and dangerous collective thinking how else do they 'justify' torture, indefinite detention without trial, invasions based on lies, widespread use of Depleted Uranium weaponry, 'rendition', drone terrorism, etc etc. This stuff, most disgustingly...is no longer 'exceptional '...as they have now made it all the new 'normal'.
    How wonderful indeed....

    December 22, 2010 10:35 am at 10:35 am |
  10. Jeff

    The US is exceptional- to Americans. Obama is correct when he says that most countries think themselves exceptional. The US has promoted Globalization – which has helped much of the world out of poverty- but at the same time has reduced the difference between nations. America needs to stop trying to rule the world and start helping itself to become a more comfortable country for all of its residents. The US can no longer afford to pretend to rule the world.

    December 22, 2010 10:44 am at 10:44 am |
  11. lilly


    exceptionally stupid!!!!!!!!!!

    December 22, 2010 10:49 am at 10:49 am |
  12. GL

    But the survey indicates Americans are less likely to believe Obama holds this view than they are to think the same about Ronald Reagan (86 percent), Bill Clinton (77 percent), and George W. Bush (74 percent).

    This is not a supprise! Go figure racist at it best.! CAN WE ALL SAY RACE is why most white Americans are less likely to believe Obama holds the same views as them. This is the most racist polling I have every seen. Why would there be any type of polling been done as this one. If President Obama was white, I am sure this type of polling would not have been taken. I rest my case!

    December 22, 2010 10:50 am at 10:50 am |
  13. Lost in Texas FOREVER

    well here was a president that tried to get the 2016 Olympics for Chicago, which last time I checked was part of America, and was not only BOOED for his efforts by the far right but they also cheered when the US lost the bid to Rio. And these same right wingers want to question if he feels America is exceptional? Perhaps they ought to question how exceptional it is for certain right wing talk show hosts and party members to hope that their president fails.

    December 22, 2010 10:56 am at 10:56 am |
  14. Dutch/Bad Newz, VA

    The President does believe the country is exceptional, even through all of this country's injustices. He has restored America's image abroad, because we surely weren't an exceptional country when the Bush Regime was shredding the Constitution apart piece by piece. America is the moral authority in the world and that certainly wasn't the case under Dubya.

    December 22, 2010 11:02 am at 11:02 am |
  15. GOP = Greed Over People

    "Given that Americans already believe that the U.S. is exceptional and that its status as the greatest nation in the world is at risk,"

    Given that we rank 25th internationally with regards to education and the fact that 75% of new service recruits are rejected due to obesity and the 25% of the remaining fit 25% flunk the educational portion because they cannot answer basic math questions such as
    2+ x = 4 what is the value of x?
    a valid argument could be made that we have not been exceptional for some time now.

    Just because a majority in a poll THINKS it to be true, does not necessarily make it true!

    December 22, 2010 11:02 am at 11:02 am |
  16. Rickster

    It's actually very obvious that Obama doesn't think the U.S. is exceptional and Obama himself has said so in so many words several times. But this is what you get when you elect a third-world raised community organizer into office. Thanks alot dems, and the media for foisting this clueless fool on us.

    December 22, 2010 11:05 am at 11:05 am |
  17. Mark

    Isn't this a bit silly? Every nation thinks itself exceptional in some form, unique in some form. Obama's statement, while perhaps not popular in some circles, still reflects a certain truth – and no disrespect is intended, while Americans may think themselves the greatest nation this is understandably not necessarily shared by other countries. The U.S is still a powerful and very wonderful country on many levels, but it does not mean we bow to its greatness either.

    December 22, 2010 11:05 am at 11:05 am |
  18. TruthAndBeauty

    America is exceptional:
    1) Only developed western democracy w/o universal healthcare
    2) Developed western democracy with lowest GDP percentage of manufacturing
    3) Highest personal debt in developed world
    4) Worst educated in developed world
    5) Worst income distribution in developed world
    6) Worst infant mortality rate in developed world
    7) 19th least corrupt country – worse than nearly all the developed world
    It goes on and on....
    We are exceptional. But not the way we should be.

    December 22, 2010 11:09 am at 11:09 am |
  19. KatR

    If America is to remain an exceptional country then we must learn humility. Pride goeth before a fall. Conservatives who believe that it is the destiny of our great nation to force other countries to submit to our military superiority are relaying a message to the world that our culture is like that of the Roman Empire. The British Empire was dealt with in WWII. If conservatives have their way it will take a nuclear WWIII to awaken them to the belief of our founders that America is NOT an empire but rather a safe haven for all who seek freedom. President Obama is an integral part of returning the foreign policy of our great nation to what our founders envisioned. Humility is a tough lesson in any circumstance. But it is a critical lesson our country must accept if America is to remain a leader on the world stage.

    December 22, 2010 11:10 am at 11:10 am |
  20. cookie

    I'll buy the idea that the US is the greatest country in the world. I can certainly also accept the fact that many people in other countries think their homeland is the greatest. And it's foolish to think, as many people seem to do, that the US is the best at everything. Our education system is far from the best in the world. Our health care system is far, far from the best in the world. In equality of income we rank much further from the top than we should. Our standard of living is at or very close to the top, but we work too many days and hours to achieve it...so there's room for argument there. Those who want to believe that we're #1 in everything are simply stupid, or in many cases have no clue about what goes on outside the US.

    December 22, 2010 11:20 am at 11:20 am |
  21. Tom in Delaware

    Of course he doesn't think the United States is exceptional....he's an appeaser and an apologist and an equivocator...as he's stated in the past...."I believe that America is exceptional in the same manner as the British or the French think that they are exceptional"

    It's classic Liberalism......everybody deserves a trophy....even for striking out.

    December 22, 2010 11:20 am at 11:20 am |
  22. Democrats Class Warfare - Destroying the economy and country

    Obozo is clearly with the 27% of DemocRATS that don't think the USA is exceptional. He has made that painfully obvious EVERY opportunity he gets. And his policies, along with Pelosi and Reid, have helped erode that exceptionalism greatly over his two years of destruction.

    December 22, 2010 11:22 am at 11:22 am |
  23. Name king

    How can the repugs think that Obama think this country is exceptional. their are
    more than one ways to go about, of proving something to other country. No country dought our military might, but they didn't thought we can come off as gentle giants, Obama proves this is possible, he proves we don't have to be the biggest bully on the yard just because we have the tool to do so, and as much as repugs want to show that Obama is making America come off as week, this a breath of fresh air to most countries, that are tires of America's, inconsiderations and bully mentality. We are living in a business world, and those old roman mentality has died years ago, you might bully people and get what material you want then, but they will never forget and you will never get their respect, and guest what time won't stop and you might see them down the road again.

    December 22, 2010 11:34 am at 11:34 am |
  24. Dean

    Obama is not exceptional...the United States of America is.

    December 22, 2010 11:43 am at 11:43 am |
  25. Bill

    Mr. President, If you truly believed that America and its people are exceptional, then you would not be so inclined to put big government in place to regulate and monitor their activities.

    December 22, 2010 11:46 am at 11:46 am |