Is America exceptionally good or exceptionally bad?

WWHEN IT COMES For momentum, Americans are usually second to none. However, new surveys from YouGov/The Economist suggests that among Democratic voters, pessimism about their own country is exceptionally common.

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Among some 1,500 people asked at the end of 2021, nearly a quarter of those who voted for Biden in the 2020 election said that the United States ranks last on gay rights. comparison to the rest of the world. Only 8% of Trump voters placed the United States that low. His view would seem closer to the truth: A 2021 study by the Williams Institute, a gay rights think tank at the University of California, Los Angeles, ranked the United States in the top 15th percentile for LGBT acceptance among 175 countries surveyed, ahead of Italy, Austria and Japan.

Biden voters are even more pessimistic about other social issues. About 40% say the US is among the worst in the world on minority rights (just 11% of Trump voters think so). Nearly half of Biden voters, compared to 14% of Trump voters, similarly condemn the US’s acceptance of immigrants and refugees (see chart). Gallup polls from 2019 suggest that Americans are actually quite sympathetic to immigrants. On a composite measure of immigrant acceptance, the United States was the sixth most welcoming country out of 145.

If some Democrats tend to have overly negative views of their country, many Republicans do the opposite. For example, 40% of Trump voters ranked the United States among the best in income inequality, ignoring rising inequality that places it well below the world average.

Patriotism is part of the Republican brand. But why do Democrats gravitate toward pessimism? Some progressive students say it helps fuel their activism.

Asking Americans, or anyone, to reflect on “the rest of the world” is tricky. People anchor themselves to what is familiar to them: countries they have been to or cultures they can identify with. Although Republican voters are sometimes caricatured as provincial, many Democratic voters seem unaware of their relative good fortune. Even if Biden voters answered our poll with only other wealthy democracies in mind, this suggests a parochial worldview that Democrats often attribute to their opponents.

In balancing America’s relative strengths and weaknesses, self-identified independents followed Republicans much more closely than Democrats. Since elections tend to hinge on votes from independents, this suggests that Democratic pessimism may backfire. On issues of American exceptionalism, some blue voters could use more shades of gray.

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This article appeared in the US section of the print edition under the headline “Worst or Best?”

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