In addition to gauging how the shift in perceptions among American youth over the last few decades, Steve Sailer’s post concerning an increase in nationalism among young Israelis prodded me to look at the WVS to see how the attitudes of young people in other countries have changed over time.
In both the second (1990-1991) and fifth (2005-2008) waves, participants were asked if they’d be willing to fight for their countries if war were to come to them. Drilling down, responses are available by age ranges that happen to correspond with the original article that Steve featured. The following table shows the percentages of respondents aged 15-29 who said they would be willing to go to war for their respective countries in 1990-1991 and in 2005-2008. The fourth column shows the changes in percentages of the youth cohort willing to fight over the intervening 15 years:
The precipitous drop detected in the US here appears in stark contrast to what the GSS (which I put greater confidence in than I do the WVS) reveals. Conceivably, I guess it could be that while confidence and respect for the US military as an organization has increased, the desire to fight goatherds in the Hindu Kush does not inspire the same enthusiasm and dreams of valor being member to the leader of the free world in the aftermath of the Soviet Union’s collapse and the obliteration of Iraq in the Gulf War does.
In the rest of the West, the story has been a declining national fervor. While changes in demographic composition surely factor into shifts in public sentiment on a host of things, Muslims representation is marginal even in the fifth (2005-2008) wave. In France, it constituted 10.2% of the respondent pool. In Great Britain, 8.7%; in the Netherlands, 2.7%. And in France, Muslims’ professed willingness to take up arms for France (67.5%) was indistinguishable from the country as a whole (66.5%). The same is true for Great Britain, with 67.5% of Muslims saying they’d go to war for the country compared to 65.8% of the entire British respondent pool. While the sentiment of these Muslims might be spurious, the fact remains that this suggests that the nationalism of these nations’ native sons really has been falling.
The same pattern characterizes Eastern Europe, though this might be the result of the novelty of being newly Democratic as communism receded having worn off in places like Romania and Bulgaria.
While the West has been becoming less nationalistic, the young members of the putatively rising powers–Brazil, India, China, and Turkey–have been treading water or even showing increased jingoism. Israel wasn’t included in the survey’s earlier waves, but it looks to be diverging from Europe and North America in this regard.
WVS variables used: E012, V75 (age – respondent)