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Americans more likely than any other nationality to say their country is best in the world

More than 40% of Americans say they strongly dislike the president, 70% say elected officials are crooked, and 64% say the country is divided between ordinary people and the corrupt elites who exploit them. But no matter what perceptions might be of the tarnished national reality, Americans stand apart for keeping faith in one shining national myth.

More than citizens of any other country, Americans are likely to say they live in the best country in the world, according to results from the YouGovCambridge Globalism Project, a survey of 23 countries crafted in partnership with the Guardian.


What is the YouGov-Cambridge Globalism Project?

The project is a new annual survey of global attitudes in 23 of the world’s biggest countries, covering almost 5 billion people.

The 2019 survey canvassed 25,325 people online across much of Europe, the Americas, Africa and Asia in February and March.

Questions about populist attitudes and convictions were inserted in order to derive a “populist cohort”, and discover what this group of people think about major world issues from immigration to vaccination, social media and globalisation.

The full methodology can be found here.

Two years into Donald Trumps effort to Make America Great Again, it seems American exceptionalism is alive and well. Certainly compared with other nations.

Only 6% of French people said their country was the best in the world. In Great Britain, the figure was 10%. The lowest rate was in Germany, with just 5%. Australians and Canadians were much more bullish, with 29% and 28%, respectively. China came in at 29%. Saudi Arabia was higher still, at 33%.

But Americans outdid the rest, with 37% saying the US was the best country in the world. An additional 28% said the US was better than most other countries, and only 7% among the lowest figures in the survey thought it was not as good as most other countries.

US flags at the White House last year. Photograph: Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images

However, Americans stood out for another characteristic: a record low rate of travel to other countries.

The US led the pack in the proportion of respondents 65% to say they had not traveled abroad for a short break or longer holiday in the past 12 months.

Of Americans who said their country was the worlds best, 71% said they had not travelled outside the country for leisure in the past year, while a further 15% reported making only one or two trips abroad.

Peter S Onuf, a historian at the University of Virginia, said expressions of American exceptionalism were not necessarily as hubristic as they could seem from the outside, but might reflect the debate, over the republics relatively brief history, about what America means.

I dont think people waste their time on this debate in other regimes, Onuf said. But from the very beginning, Americans had to justify and explain why they exist. And their claim to recognition, based on what the founders in the revolution supposedly did, has become a legacy that has become both a promise and a burden.

US fans at a soccer match against Mexico in 2017. Photograph: Alfredo Estrella/AFP/Getty Images

American exceptionalism has two basic sides, Onuf said: the kind of populist hyperbolic exceptionalism you might come across at a Trump rally, and progressive exceptionalism, which has always been about the potential and promise of the country for the world.

There were signs in the survey that that sense of American promise is not restricted to the US. Asked to select countries they admired most, the more than 25,000 people who were surveyed worldwide put the US second overall, after Japan but ahead of Canada.

However, there were also signs that admiration for the US was not universal. The top three words and phrases most associated with the US in the global survey included economic success, bullying and reckless.

Americans saw themselves differently, preferring economic success, corrupt and innovative. Coming in a close fourth, however, was an entry that might give boosters of American exceptionalism pause for thought: declining.

This sense of a country in decline, combined with a sense of unfulfilled potential, has contributed to a moment of anguish for many on the American left, Onuf said.

Progressives always famously thought that the world would become more American because its the standard, he said. Now theres a fear that the world will go down with America because of its profligate ways, ironically because of the incapacity of American governance.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2019/may/07/us-outdoes-other-countries-national-pride