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Changes in Youths' Patriotism by Country Over Time
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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:

Country 90-91 05-08 Change
Argentina 56.5% 59.2% +2.7
Brazil 40.4% 63.1% +22.7
Bulgaria 93.5% 68.8% (24.7)
Canada 68.7% 54.1% (14.6)
Chile 84.5% 58.4% (26.1)
China 97.3% 90.8% (6.5)
Finland 80.9% 75.7% (5.2)
France 59.3% 57.4% (1.9)
Great Britain 75.0% 60.4% (14.6)
India 93.5% 85.9% (7.6)
Italy 29.7% 39.0% +9.3
Japan 8.0% 11.6% +3.6
Mexico 77.7% 75.9% (1.8)
Netherlands 77.3% 53.1% (24.2)
Norway 91.4% 88.0% (3.4)
Poland 94.7% 82.8% (11.9)
Romania 91.2% 64.6% (26.6)
Russia 84.6% 85.9% +1.3
South Africa 75.4% 69.5% (5.9)
South Korea 86.9% 65.2% (21.7)
Spain 52.8% 43.2% (9.6)
Sweden 82.4% 72.9% (9.5)
Switzerland 67.3% 44.3% (23.0)
Turkey 91.1% 96.9% +5.8
United States 82.5% 40.9% (41.6)

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)

(Republished from The Audacious Epigone by permission of author or representative)
• Tags: Europe, History, War, WVS 
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  1. And in France, Muslims' professed willingness to take up arms for France (67.5%) was indistinguishable from the country as a whole (66.5%).

    As a long-time expat there, I'm surprised. Burning the French flag has become a New Year's tradition for many immigrant youth (= Maghrebins/SS Africans), as has booing the national anthem at football matches and attacking firefighters / ambulances who venture into their neighborhoods. Which was what got Le Pen so close to the presidency back in '02.

    I was also surprised by the gap between Norway / Sweden / Finland (88/73/76) and Spain / Italy (43/39). I wonder if it's because regional loyalties in the latter two countries are still strong enough to keep them on guard against the 'national idea.'

  2. Whether or not a country has conscription probably explains some of the patterns.

  3. I think this is a confusing question. I mean America was, at the latter time of the question, in two wars.

    The question for young Americans in 2005-2008 was almost the specific one of 'do you want to ship off to Afghanistan'?

    For the Scandinavian countries the question was much more abstract, i.e. if somebody invades Scandinavia, which is unlikely. Serving in the Scandinavian military probably doesn't mean much so you aren't actually promising anything.

    On the other hand, you may be seeing that a lot of young people feel less loyalty to a country that is more diverse?

  4. Italy's difference column looks wrong.

  5. Anonymous • Disclaimer says:

    "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."

    This and more importantly the fact that our countries are run by corrupt politicians and crony capitalists. Why fight to maintain a corrupt regime in power?

    At least I believe this how others also think. I am not a typical Romanian young man, since I am quite libertarian-minded and I also read your site and others from the reactosphere.

  6. MG,

    Well, it does ask respondents "would you be willing to fight for your country?" For many Muslims (and similarly for many Mexicans and Central Americans in the US), the country they have in mind is not their Western host nation, but their ancestral homelands.

    Whatever the explanation, it remains the case that the Muslim increase in population is not the explanation for the national declines in these European countries.

    Anon and Dan,

    Yeah, both conscription and historical timing. The GSS question is probably a better one for gauging patriotic/nationalistic sentiments–assuming the WVS data is accurate (and I point that out on multiple occasions because unlike the GSS, the results I get often vary with what I'm guessing I'll find beforehand), there are a lot of young adults who respect the military a great deal but had no desire to enlist in 2006 when Iraq was perceived to be a meat grinder.


    Thanks, fixed it. I'm capable of doing basic addition and subtraction, I swear…


    I doubt public sentiment is near that point here in the US, but I share your feelings–I certainly wouldn't want to bleed in some sand trap on behalf of a government that is hostile towards me and "my people". I wouldn't be surprised if, in my adult life, that becomes a fairly widely held and expressed opinion among young, straight, WASPy white men (especially those from the Midwest and South).

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