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Conservatives are much more likely than liberals to be proud of America

Rudy loves America. And Israel. But mostly America.
Rudy loves America. And Israel. But mostly America.
Bryan Thomas/Getty Images

Rudy Giuliani has a point.

It's hard not to see some ugly racial undertones in his now-infamous claim that Barack Obama doesn't "love America" because of the way he was raised. He's taking fair licks for a nasty, ungrounded personal attack.

But imagine he'd said something slightly different like liberals in general don't love America in the same way that rich Scott Walker donors do? Liberals would have been angry at having their patriotism questioned. But it seems to be true.

Consider this chart the Pew Research Center published in the summer of 2014:

The way Pew slices up the population could use a little explaining here. Basically, Solid Liberals are overwhelmingly Democrats while Steadfast Conservatives and Business Conservatives are equally loyal to the GOP. The Next Generation Left and the Faith and Family Left are less tilted, but strongly favor Democrats. The Young Outsiders have a smaller tilt to the GOP, while the Hard-Pressed Skeptics have an even smaller tilt toward Democrats.

So back to the table. The two GOP loyalist groups are super duper proud to be Americans. The most solidly Democratic group is the least proud. The one Democratic-leaning group that manifests an above-average level of pride is the Faith and Family Left, which also skews older than the less patriotic groups of liberals.

Another Pew question revealed a broadly similar pattern:

Solid Liberals are especially unlikely to view the United States as categorically superior to other countries, while Steadfast and Business conservatives are very likely to say that it is.

Given the age breakdowns involved, it seems likely that this Patriotism Gap will only grow over time with Solid Liberals growing as a share of the Democratic coalition and the Faith and Family Left shrinking. Politicians looking to exploit this gap effectively should probably aim for a more sophisticated approach than Giuliani's. But expect this general theme to be something we hear about for years to come.

Of course just because Giuliani has a point here doesn't mean his critics aren't also on to something. As Will Wilkinson wrote at The Economist, "Those least aware of historical oppression, those furthest from its living reality, will find it easiest to express their love of country in a hearty and uncomplicated way. The demand that American presidents emanate this sort of blithe nationalism therefore does have a racist and probably sexist upshot, even if there is no bigotry behind it."