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How Americans feel about their country and its institutions


You can be anything when you grow up, even president of the United States. Maybe many of us heard that as kids, but apparently, parents and grandparents overwhelmingly right now would not want their child or grandchild to become president. It's a surprising finding from the latest NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll this week of July 4. And here to talk to us about that finding and the politics of patriotism overall is NPR senior political editor and correspondent Domenico Montanaro. Hey, Domenico.

DOMENICO MONTANARO, BYLINE: Hey - good to be with you, Ailsa.

CHANG: Good to have you. OK, we're going to get to that question of the presidency in a minute. But first, I want to talk to you about flags because I understand that one of the questions in this survey was about whether people would be proud to hang the American flag outside of their home. What did this survey say?

MONTANARO: Yeah. It's interesting. I mean, here we found three-quarters said that they were either proud or very proud to display the flag. Majorities of Republicans, independents and Democrats all said so. But there were some discrepancies, with 90% of Republicans saying that they're proud to display the stars and stripes. Among Democrats, it was more than 20 points lower at 67%. Those most likely to say that they are not proud to display the flag are those 18 to 29. About 1 in 3 of younger voters said that, a quarter of Biden voters as well as a quarter of nonwhite voters - a minority of those surveyed to be sure, but it's really a signal that the American experience hasn't always and isn't necessarily working for everyone. And we know that, you know, past polling has shown that walking through neighborhoods, if you see American flags - some people, nonwhites, younger voters as well saying that they're uncomfortable...

CHANG: Interesting.

MONTANARO: ...More likely to say that they're uncomfortable compared to other groups.

CHANG: Yeah. OK, well, back to this question of how people do not want their kids to become president, what exactly are the numbers on that?

MONTANARO: Well, Marist asked a national sample of more than 1,200 survey respondents this question, and a whopping 60% said, no, they would not want their children to be president. That's up six points from just 2018. I sort of did a double take and re-looked at the numbers to make sure I saw that correctly because I certainly flashed back to my youth, being in elementary school and teachers telling us to dream big and that any of us could be anything, even the president.

CHANG: Totally - same here (laughter).

MONTANARO: Right. It's pretty stunning to me because...

CHANG: But I would not want to be president now.

MONTANARO: Well, yeah, I mean, look. There's a difference, I think, between wanting your kid to run for president and wanting to be president because we all know running for president - there's a tremendous amount of scrutiny. It's a grueling process. But, boy, it's something else that kids are not really being encouraged, it seems, by parents or grandparents now to want to dream big and dreaming big meaning being in the White House.

CHANG: And I imagine these parents and grandparents who do or don't want their kids to become president - I mean, there were probably big differences by political affiliation, race, age. What did you see?

MONTANARO: Yeah. You know, younger people, those 18 to 29, were most likely to say that they do not want their kids to be president. Sixty-nine percent said that, but it wasn't just young people. Majorities of every age group said it, too. Women were slightly more likely than men to say they don't want their kids or grandkids to be president. Republicans were slightly more likely than Democrats to believe that as well. Through the years, really, Republicans have been the ones that have targeted Democrats as not being patriotic enough, even with kind of petty arguments about who was or wasn't wearing a flag lapel pin. Overall, Gallup found a big decline in the last 20 years among all Americans among those saying that they're extremely proud to be American.

CHANG: And I'm curious. How are you seeing those divisions in the presidential race?

MONTANARO: Really, at the heart of what this election is about on this week that reminds us of the sacrifices that people really made to create this country in the first place is what it means to be American. People have very different and very ingrained thoughts and ideas about the direction that this country should take. Which rights should be protected? Who should be allowed in? How schools should be run, how government should spend tax dollars and on what, on and on - and those priorities are at stake in this election between two candidates people say they don't like very much but have very, very different visions for what it means to be American.

CHANG: That is NPR's Domenico Montanaro. Thank you so much, Domenico.

MONTANARO: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Domenico Montanaro is NPR's senior political editor/correspondent. Based in Washington, D.C., his work appears on air and online delivering analysis of the political climate in Washington and campaigns. He also helps edit political coverage.
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