Varieties of American Popular Nationalism

Bart Bonikowski, Paul DiMaggio

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    Despite the relevance of nationalism for politics and intergroup relations, sociologists have devoted surprisingly little attention to the phenomenon in the United States, and historians and political psychologists who do study the United States have limited their focus to specific forms of nationalist sentiment: ethnocultural or civic nationalism, patriotism, or national pride. This article innovates, first, by examining an unusually broad set of measures (from the 2004 GSS) tapping national identification, ethnocultural and civic criteria for national membership, domain-specific national pride, and invidious comparisons to other nations, thus providing a fuller depiction of Americans’ national self-understanding. Second, we use latent class analysis to explore heterogeneity, partitioning the sample into classes characterized by distinctive patterns of attitudes. Conventional distinctions between ethnocultural and civic nationalism describe just about half of the U.S. population and do not account for the unexpectedly low levels of national pride found among respondents who hold restrictive definitions of American nationhood. A subset of primarily younger and well-educated Americans lacks any strong form of patriotic sentiment; a larger class, primarily older and less well educated, embraces every form of nationalist sentiment. Controlling for sociodemographic characteristics and partisan identification, these classes vary significantly in attitudes toward ethnic minorities, immigration, and national sovereignty. Finally, using comparable data from 1996 and 2012, we find structural continuity and distributional change in national sentiments over a period marked by terrorist attacks, war, economic crisis, and political contention.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)949-980
    Number of pages32
    JournalAmerican sociological review
    Issue number5
    StatePublished - Oct 1 2016


    • attitudes
    • latent class analysis
    • national identity
    • nationalism
    • political culture
    • public opinion

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Sociology and Political Science


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