Happy July 4: New Penn State study finds U.S. divided on what it means to be patriotic | Thursday Morning Coffee

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Good Thursday Morning, Fellow Seekers.

On this, the 243rd anniversary of a bunch of landed, white rich men gathering in a hot, stuffy room in Philadelphia to engage in a singular act of treason that gave birth to what remains a unique experiment in representative democracy, a new poll finds that while Americans still embrace patriotism, they have very different ideas of what that word means.

For some, including a 20-year-old registered independent from Pennsylvania, that means “standing when the National Anthem plays,” according to a new canvass of 1,000 Americans by Penn State’s McCourtney Institute. 

A 41-year-old Texas Democrat said patriotism meant “saluting the American flag,” and “celebrating the 4th of July,” as many of you are no doubt preparing to do even as you read this.

Still, we’re willing to bet that your backyard bash doesn’t include a multi-million-dollar display of military might. But you might be splashing out on the good beer — except for your cousin from Altoona. He gets the Icy Light.

The heck with him.

Source: Penn State University

According to the poll, about six in 10 Americans defined patriotism as a love of country that involves outward displays of loyalty and respect. That view was more prevalent among Republicans (72 percent) than among Democrats (58 percent) and independents (53 percent), pollsters found.

For other respondents, patriotism is meaningless if it’s not followed up by action — typically through military service.

“I served in the infantry, to me, that’s patriotic. It’s patriotic to fight for what you believe in,” a 29-year-old Republican respondent from Pennsylvania told pollsters. A 53-year-old independent from Connecticut offered a similar sentiment, saying that patriotism is a willingness to sacrifice for the good of your country, and to oppose those who would threaten it, either foreign or domestic.”

All told, 16 percent of Democratic and independent respondents, joined by 10 percent of Republicans “associated patriotism not only with honoring U.S. troops, but also serving in uniform to defend the nation,” pollsters found. A further 13 percent “shared that patriotism for them entails active engagement in the community and nation by being a good citizen and doing good works.”

Source: Penn State University

Some other key takeaways from the poll:

  • “Around 6 percent of Americans, primarily younger adults identifying as Independents or Democrats, expressed rejection of shared traditional patriotic values and love of country. Respondents included roughly equal percentages of Whites, African Americans and Hispanics.
  • “More than three in four respondents 65 and older said that patriotism is “very important” in their daily lives, but that number dropped to 21% for those under 30. Four in 10 of these younger Americans felt that patriotism was unimportant in their daily lives.
  • “While the starkest lines of division surrounded age, the poll also found that Whites and Republicans felt patriotism was very important, while Blacks, Hispanics, Independents and Democrats felt it was less important. Members of these groups seem to place priority on helping people as individuals, with loyalty, pride and love of country coming second.”

The Penn State poll was conducted from June 7 to June 9, in cooperation with YouGov. The final data was “weighted to adjust for variation in the sample from the adult United States population with respect to demographic variables such as geographic region, gender, race/ethnicity, age, and education, and political variables such as voter registration status and political interest.”

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Our Stuff.
Stephen Caruso 
looks at the mixed reception that the environmental spending authorized by the new state budget is getting among progressives and the environmental community.

On our Commentary Page, a University of Idaho scholar explains how visiting a national park could change your view of what it means to be an American.

And carrying over a tradition from our old employer, we’re marking this 4th of July by reprinting the Declaration of Independence. It’s a reminder that the words resonate as much as they ever have, while America remains a work in progress.

A scheduling note: We’ll be off on Friday, July 5, which means you’ll have to live without us for one day. The normal order of business will resume on Monday, July 8. The Capital-Star will be running an array of fresh coverage, however, throughout the holiday interval. So watch your Twitters and Facebooks for links. 

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Here’s your #Pennsylvania Instagram of the Day:

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When America selected the Bald Eagle as our national symbol in 1782, there were as many as 100,000 nesting bald eagles. Due to loss of habitat, shooting, lead poisoning, and DDT poisoning, by 1963 there were only 487 nesting pairs of Bald Eagles remaining. By 1978, it was listed as ‘endangered’ or ‘threatened’ throughout the lower 48 states. It was then that the government and public started taking bigger steps to preserve the eagles. It took until mid 1995 to be able to declare the bird as threatened rather than endangered. On June 28, 2007, the Bald Eagle was officially removed from the threatened and endangered species list. Today, it is predicted that there are over 70,000 Bald Eagles in the United States. It’s fitting that our nations symbol can also be considered one of the ultimate endangered species success stories. . PC: @matthewgehly #teampawild Follow @greatest_pennsylvania for more pics #pennsylvaniaphotographer #pennsylvanialife #pennsylvaniahair #pennsylvaniaavenue #pennsylvaniawedding #pennsylvanian #pennsylvaniaphotography #pennsylvaniasky #pennsylvaniaskies #pennsylvaniagrandcanyon #pennsylvaniamade #pennsylvaniatuxedo

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And now you’re up to date. Happy Independence Day, all. We’ll see you all back here on Monday. 

An award-winning political journalist with more than 25 years' experience in the news business, John L. Micek is The Pennsylvania Capital-Star's Editor-in-Chief. Before joining The Capital-Star, Micek spent six years as Opinion Editor at PennLive/The Patriot-News in Harrisburg, Pa., where he helped shape and lead a multiple-award-winning Opinion section for one of Pennsylvania's most-visited news websites. Prior to that, he spent 13 years covering Pennsylvania government and politics for The Morning Call of Allentown, Pa. His career has also included stints covering Congress, Chicago City Hall and more municipal meetings than he could ever count, Micek contributes regular analysis and commentary to a host of broadcast outlets, including CTV-News in Canada and talkRadio in London, U.K., as well as "Face the State" on CBS-21 in Harrisburg, Pa.; "Pennsylvania Newsmakers" on WGAL-8 in Lancaster, Pa., and the Pennsylvania Cable Network. His weekly column on American politics is syndicated nationwide to more than 800 newspapers by Cagle Syndicate.

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