Published online by Cambridge University Press: 05 June 2012
Americans like the American people. They generally think highly of them, even while acknowledging a few negative characteristics. According to a 2005 Pew Global Attitudes Project poll, the vast majority of Americans thought the American people were hardworking (85 percent), inventive (81 percent), and honest (63 percent). Granted, they also thought Americans were greedy (70 percent) and not religious enough (58 percent), but overall, Americans were significantly more positive about their fellow Americans than they were negative (Pew Research Center 2005). In the Democratic Processes Survey, in 1998, a majority of Americans thought the United States would be better off if Americans made the decisions, not politicians (56 percent), and that Americans could solve the country's problems if they were just given a chance (63 percent) (Hibbing and Theiss-Morse 2002: 112). And in a national random-sample survey of American citizens conducted in the spring of 2002, more Americans agreed (46 percent) with the statement, “the world would be a better place if people from other countries were more like people in the U.S.,” than disagreed (37 percent).
Liking one's fellow nationals is important, and these poll results suggest that most Americans hold a very high opinion of their compatriots. But liking the group isn't enough. For people to identify with a group, any group, they need to evaluate the group positively, but they also need to be cognitively aware that they are members of the group and they need to feel a sense of attachment to the group (Tajfel 1978).