- The Washington Times - Sunday, July 3, 2005

The flag-waving of post-September 11 America has turned into a patriotism with staying power, a survey by Roper Reports shows.

About eight in 10 Americans from every walk of life say patriotism is “in.” Survey respondents ranked patriotism as 12th among the 60 most important values to hold.

Increased patriotism, pollsters and analysts say, can be linked directly to sentiment after September 11 and during the ongoing war on terror.

“You can’t ignore the reaction to global events and our place in the world,” says Cary Silvers, vice president of NOP World, which distributed the survey. “The feeling is that patriotism is a defense mechanism.”

Among the findings of the survey are:

• 75 percent of Democrats say patriotism is “in.”

• 80 percent of Republicans say patriotism is “in.”

• 77 percent of adults ages 18 to 29 say patriotism is “in,” up from 44 percent in 1999.

• Religiosity has little bearing on the importance of patriotism. Those who attend church regularly ranked patriotism as the 14th most important value; those who do not attend church regularly ranked it as 12th.

• The rise in perceived patriotism parallels that in Americans’ personal confidence; 69 percent of Americans are confident that they will be better off in 12 months, up three percentage points from 2004.

The September 11 terrorist attacks reminded Americans what it feels like to love a country, a people and a cause. Today’s patriotic fervor, then, is a manifestation of that love.

“In terms of the nation after 9/11, we saw a huge resurgence in patriotism in that you saw American flags flying everywhere. In past wars, too, after Pearl Harbor, you saw a huge surge in patriotism because people unite in times of war and unite for the common good,” says Joe March, a spokesman with the American Legion.

The American flag, specialists say, is the symbol of choice for Americans who want to display their devotion to the country without words. That it was particularly popular after September 11 is no surprise — it tends to make a renewed appearance at the beginning of every war as people search for a way to display their devotion.

“If you look back in history, the American flag has been tied to wars,” says Marc Leepson, author of the book “Flag: An American Biography.”

“It was born during the Revolutionary War; before the Civil War it was almost unheard of for individual Americans to fly the flag, but almost immediately after the war started people started displaying the flag — in the North, of course,” he says. “That display of patriotism and the flag happened again when America got into World War I and World War II.

“If you read some of the accounts of how it almost happened overnight after Pearl Harbor, it reminds you of what happened after September 11,” he says.

Other popular symbols expressing love of country include bumper stickers and banners supporting U.S. troops.

“It seems like the display of patriotism is still strong with the U.S. flag, but you see a lot transferring that to those banners or stickers that are put on cars. For some reason or another, those have been accepted and have come more prevalent,” Mr. March says. “Maybe that’s because we’re a mobile society.”

But, Mr. March says, “the American flag represents a constant which stands for freedom and is the unique characteristics of America that makes us the beacon of freedom in the world.”

“I think when you salute the flag you are saluting much, much more than what you see in the red, white and blue. You are saluting the uniqueness of America.”

But the survey’s assumption that patriotism was ever “out” annoys some.

“The American Legion believes that patriotism is in and always has been,” Mr. March says. “We’re extremely proud to be members of this great country.”

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