Posted on August 7, 2021

Why Millennials and Gen Z Aren’t Proud to Be American

Jacob Jarvis, Newsweek, July 30, 2021


Polling shows there’s a patriotism gap between older and younger Americans; generation Z and Millennials are less likely to say yes to the question of national pride than those born in the decades preceding them.

Sixty-seven percent of 1,424 U.S. adults in I&I/TIPP polling said they were extremely or very proud to be American when asked between June 30 and July 2, during the build-up to Independence Day.

But among those aged 18 to 24, just 36 percent said the same, with 35 percent in that age bracket stating they were only slightly or not at all proud to be American.

Ipsos polling of 1,026 people between June 25 and 28 showed a similar pattern. Overall, 69 percent said they were proud to be American. This figure was boosted by Gen X and Baby Boomers, with 71 percent and 84 percent respectively saying they were.

Among Millennials, however, just 52 percent said the same. Of those in Gen Z, 58 percent were proud to be America. It is a majority in both younger brackets, but there is a clear generational divide.

It raises an obvious question: Why do younger people feel less proud than their elders?

Ophelie Jacobson is a reporter for Campus Reform, an activist group that calls itself a “conservative watchdog to the nation’s higher education system.”

Jacobson, who is studying at the University of Florida, asked young people in Washington, D.C. if they were proud to be an American for a recent Campus Reform video, which Fox News later reported on.

The first person in the clip told her they “feel embarrassed to be an American every day,” and referenced “racist history, colonization” and “currently just what’s going on with politics and the cops.”


The United States is experiencing a reckoning with its past; debates around racism and racial injustice have gained traction. These discussions were spotlighted by widespread protests following high-profile killings of Black Americans, such as George Floyd.

Such incidents and fiery talk of systemic racism—as well as personal experience of injustice in modern America—may be impacting younger generations’ feelings about the country, dampening any inclination to feel proud.

Newsweek spoke with younger people who expressed on social media unhappiness with the U.S. to ask why they do not feel proud to be American. {snip}

“Learning real American history has made me ashamed to be American,” Twitter user @blackoutvulture, who is 31, tweeted on July 11.

“{snip} I’ve long since detested my heritage, but I have come to despise the country I find myself stuck in. How can anyone learn about this country and feel proud? It confuses and sickens me.”

Speaking to Newsweek, they explained further how they feel about the U.S.

“We were not created as a country with black and indigenous rights in mind, yet even stating something as basic as that makes me the enemy to millions of Americans who think I merely hate this country blindly,” they said.

Asked what they think about people being proud Americans, they referred to patriotism as “little more than successful brainwashing.”


“What is there to be proud of when millions of us these last couple years have just learned about the Tulsa race massacre and the long since celebrated holiday of Juneteenth; two very important pieces of history that have been purposely repressed?


Campus Reform’s Jacobson said that “race and racism were the most common issues that people brought up to me,” adding: “I can’t say I’m surprised at this because our society is obsessed with these concepts.”


Steven Smith, the author of Reclaiming Patriotism in an Age of Extremes and a professor at Yale University, told Newsweek that shifts in how children are taught to understand the past have altered their perceptions of America as they become adults.

“If students are taught from an early age that America is a country founded on genocide and created to perpetuate slavery—and this has become the ideology of much secondary and higher education canonized today in the NYT‘s ‘1619 Project’—then patriotism will seem nothing more than an expression of bigotry and moral blindness,” Smith said.


“The names of our national heroes have been erased from schools and public buildings and their statues have been removed. Patriotism requires that we have something to look up to and the current school curricula have become a cure worse than the disease.”


It’s not just age and education shaping opinion on national pride. It’s people’s financial situations, too.

Research shows a growing wealth divide between the generations. According to a Bloomberg report last year, Millennials own just 4.2 percent of the nation’s wealth. Boomers hold some 10 times that and controlled substantially more—21 percent—when they were the same age as Millennials are now.

Underlining this generational wealth divide is sharply rising living costs, with the average apartment rental price surpassing $1,200 for the first time after a 10 percent increase in the first half of 2021 alone.

Newsweek spoke with another Twitter user, who also asked their real name not be used, after they wrote earlier in July: “I hate being American. I hate this country. I hate that I was born here. It’s s***.”

The 21-year-old, who lives in South Carolina, is aware that while some on social media agree with them about having pride in America, many others take issue—sometimes fiercely—with any unpatriotic sentiment.


There is also the cliché that you become more right-wing as you age. And there’s some truth to this dynamic. Older people are simply more inclined to feel patriotic after the passage of time.

“In general, we see that people become more conservative as they get older. Patriotism can be linked with conservatism,” Francesco Duina, a professor of sociology at Bates College and author of Broke and Patriotic: Why Poor Americans Love Their Country, told Newsweek.

“It isn’t necessarily that this younger generation is less patriotic than previous young generations. People’s views change as they get older.”

The experiences of older generations that are not shared by younger people could also be a force behind the gap. Many older people can look back on certain major events that occurred early on in their lifetime and feel an acute sense of pride.

Smith, of Yale University, told Newsweek: “An earlier generation could take genuine pride from the fact that it fought a war to defeat fascism and save democracy or that America fought another war—the Cold War—to defeat communism without firing a shot. These have now begun to appear as relics from the past.

“The 21st century has not exactly provided any comparable experience that can serve as a source of national pride. Beginning with the attack on the Twin Towers, the failed war in Iraq, the economic crisis of 2008, and now the COVID pandemic is it any wonder that Millennials and Gen Z’ers don’t feel they have anything to be patriotic about?

“The current generation thinks in terms of global causes like ending racism and halting global warming but these have become decoupled from any sense of national purpose.”


The question of what patriotism entails in 2021, and what it means to be a proud American, could affect how people respond when asked about their own national pride. People may perceive patriotism to mean, or be associated with, different things.

Gallup polling showed that overall pride in being American hit a low in 2020, with a slight uptick in polling this year—though numbers remain significantly lower than at the start of the century.

“Maybe what has changed is what people think of as patriotic,” David Waldstreicher, distinguished professor of history at The Graduate Center, City University of New York, told Newsweek.

“Today it might be like asking someone if they identify with flag-waving Trump supporters. in 1992 it would have meant do you support the Gulf War. At other times it probably meant more simply, do you love the USA.

“I also think it is even harder to measure the cynicism and disillusionment in the past which was not surveyed or recorded.”