Stan Greenberg and Jeremy Rosner
True Patriot Network


Executive Summary

A new public opinion survey released today as both Democrats and Republicans prepare for their national political conventions, finds that Americans are deeply dissatisfied with how America’s political leaders typically invoke patriotism, and shows a strong desire by the public for a new vision of patriotism that features more emphasis on the future, constructive change, and progressive civic values.

The poll, conducted by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner and commissioned by the True Patriot Network, also finds that while Senator John McCain is currently regarded as significantly more patriotic than Senator Barack Obama, Obama actually wins a hypothetical patriotism-centered debate with McCain, if Obama frames his agenda within a narrative of patriotism centered on progressive values.

Key Findings

  • 76 percent of respondents believe that political leaders “invoke patriotism in a cheap and empty way.”
  • The single most negative thing Americans feel about patriotism is that “politicians often exploit it to manipulate the public.”
  • By a 20-point margin, 58 to 38 percent, respondents believe patriotism should be more about “actively improving” America than simply honoring its past.
  • Although more Americans rate Sen. McCain as patriotic (74 percent) than Sen. Obama (56 percent), when Obama frames his idea of patriotism in terms that call on America to live up to its ideals and promise, respondents prefer his patriotism-centered argument over McCain’s more traditional patriotic framing by 11 points - and that represents a widening of the Obama’s current 8-point, 47-39 percent lead in a ballot test, with significant movement among independent voters. These findings signal both challenges and opportunities for Obama.


This poll was conducted by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner, and sponsored by the True Patriot Network and its co-founders Eric Liu and Nick Hanauer, authors of the recent book, The True Patriot. The survey results are based on telephone interviews with a random sample of 1,000 adults, conducted August 12-14, 2008. The results are subject to a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3.1 percent.