(Photo: Reuters/Shannon Stapleton)
A new Gallup poll reports that Americans are starting to think more often about our roots and widely agree that the United States has a unique character because of its history and Constitution.
The poll asked the questions, "What is it like to be an American and does the American Dream still exist?" The polls revealed that Americans are still busy and schedules remain packed with things to do, but they think more often about America's roots and widely agree that the United States has a unique character because of its history and Constitution "that sets us apart from other nations as the greatest in the world."
This view, commonly referred to as "U.S. exceptionalism," is shared by at least 73 percent of Americans surveyed.
At the same time Americans believe the U.S. is exceptional, they also are inclined to believe that our world status is far from secure, which brings out that “protective nature,” the poll revealed.
"Our past is where we find our strength as a nation," said a large percentage of those participating in the poll.
Three-quarters of those who believe the U.S. is exceptional also believe the nation is currently at risk of losing its unique character and this has a unique effect on personal reflection, according to the poll.
"As incomes rise, there used to be this infatuation with stuff, and stuff does not make us happier or better people," said Dr. Paul Zak, founder of the Center for Neuroeconomics Studies at Claremont Graduate University.
"We found this out. The positive side of things shows that the recession trends remind us to refocus on what's most important: things like family, friends, our history, and long walks-taking time to think about life."
The “American Dream” has not drifted to far off its base and polls show with a dose of hard work and dedication, anyone can become successful, regardless of race, gender or socioeconomic class.
Although pride in country is still alive, a majority of those surveyed wonder if the "American Dream” is actually attainable. However, we are more thoughtful and appreciate about our forefathers and their beliefs.
More than 9 in 10 Americans still say "yes" when asked the basic question, "Do you believe in God?"; this is down only slightly from the 1940s, when Gallup first asked this question.
According to a recent poll conducted by the Pew Research Center, 46 percent of Americans think that the media "is becoming too critical of America, and that such criticism is weakening national defense."
A resounding 70 percent think that "the media ought to take a more pro-American stand in its reporting."
Americans may be experiencing a fundamental behavioral shift, say some psychologists.
It is a move away from years of conspicuous consumption and credit-fueled extravagance and the economic downturn might have a silver lining for the country.
The recent recession, home foreclosures and high unemployment rates have made Americans "more thoughtful people," said those surveyed in the Gallup poll.
For example, the Mortgage Bankers Association reported that 12 percent of all U.S. home loans – about 5.4 million mortgages – were delinquent or facing foreclosure proceedings this year, the highest level since the association started measuring 37 years ago.
However, Americans, young and old, seem to favor considerably more optimism than pessimism despite these financial woes.
There were about 75 percent of those surveyed that said money is the biggest hurdle in achieving the "American Dream," while only 15 percent said the problem is time, and 8.8 percent said it is education.
As social researchers analyze how Americans are affected by the economy, they're uncovering an interesting trend: “Even people who have not been hit hard by the downturn – those whose jobs and incomes remain unchanged – are pulling back on spending,” psychologists reported.
They're clipping coupons, abandoning shopping malls and planting backyard gardens. Americans are even being less wasteful. Could we be returning to the ideals of past generations?
“Being an American to me means many things like being able to speak your mind; attend the church you want to attend; celebrate the holidays you want to celebrate; and be a slave to no one,” said “Sarah B.” in an interview with mashable.com.
Americans are also fairly upbeat when asked to predict the U.S. economy's direction over the next few years. More than 4 in 10 think the economy will improve, while 20 percent say it will get worse. Here again, net optimism prevails among all three political groups, according to Gallup.
To better understand what Americans mean when they say "moral values in the country" need to improve, Gallup asks respondents who hold this view to describe some of the ways in which they see values in America.
Americans are three times more likely to describe the current state of moral values in the United States as "poor" rather than as "excellent" or "good."
Americans' assessment of U.S. morality has never been positive, but the current ratings rank among the worst Gallup has measured over the past nine years.
"This is the ‘fundamental shift’ psychologists are talking about," said Dr. Paul Wheeler, a retired psychologist based in Chicago.
"We are taking note as American morality is at an all-time low and we want to do something about it – hence the return to days of old."
Americans widely agree that the United States has a unique character because of its "history and Constitution that sets it apart from other nations as the greatest in the world," Gallup reported.
"Many of the elements of materialism are so seductive," Wheeler said.
"The recession may be an opportunity, unfortunate as it is, to step away from all of that for a little while,” said Suze Orman, a financial analysts.
"Tough message, but a real message. You know, many people are dreaming. Let me rent. Let me have a job. Let me work until I'm 70. That's not what the American Dream used to be. It used to be, let me own a home. Let me retire at 59 and a half or 65 at the latest.”
There are many things that make America great, but one of the most important is that it is one of the few nations on earth that is founded upon a philosophy of individual freedom rather than government power, bloodlines or birthrights, Gallup reports.
Dr. Scott E. Smith, a clinical psychologist with Spectrum Behavioral Health in Annapolis, said American philosophy and the Constitution continue to encourage individual liberties and the pursuit of individual happiness.
He said these ideals have been revived in our culture and it is ultimately the promise of a better economy and individual rights that encourages people to pursue their dreams.
“While there is much work for all of us to do as citizens and patriots,” Smith said.
“There is ample reason this Fourth of July to celebrate our country for what she stands for and to believe that the best of America is yet to come.”