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American Patriotism, National Identity, and Political Involvement


  • An earlier version of this article was presented at the annual meeting of the Midwest Political Science Association. We wish to thank the National Opinion Research Council for use of the 1996 GSS data. We also wish to thank Stanley Feldman, Jenny Boldero, Wendy Rahn, Elizabeth Theiss-Morse, Christopher Parker, and members of the Stony Brook Political Psychology seminar, and several anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments and insights on an earlier draft of this article.

Leonie Huddy is professor of political science, Stony Brook University, Stony Brook, NY 11794-4392 ( Nadia Khatib is a lecturer in political science, University of Arizona, 315 Social Sciences Building, PO Box 210027, Tucson, AZ 85721-0027 (


Researchers disagree over the definition, measurement, and expected political consequences of American patriotism, a situation that is fueled by the absence of a strong theoretical research foundation. We develop and evaluate a new measure of national attachment that is grounded in social identity theory (Tajfel and Turner 1979), drawing on data from three distinct sources: two studies of undergraduate students and the 1996 General Social Survey (GSS). Confirmatory factor analyses provide clear evidence that national identity is distinct from other measures of national attachment including symbolic, constructive, and uncritical patriotism, and nationalism. National identity has a number of other good measurement properties when compared to existing measures: it receives equal endorsement from conservatives and liberals (unlike most other measures which exhibit an ideological bias), develops with time spent in the United States among immigrants, and most importantly is the only measure of national attachment to predict political interest and voter turnout in both student and adult samples, consistent with the predictions of social identity theory. In that sense, the national identity measure outperforms all other measures of national attachment and provides unambiguous evidence that a strong American identity promotes civic involvement.