4 August 2006
South Africans rank fourth in the world for pride in their country, according to a recent report by the National Opinion Research Center (NORC) at the University of Chicago in the US.
The report, released in June, was based on a survey of people in 34 countries carried out by the International Social Survey Program, a consortium of survey researchers throughout the world.
Countries surveyed were mostly in Europe and the Americas, with several Asian countries represented. Israel was the only Middle Eastern country included.
The researchers asked people about their pride in 10 specific areas of their country: its democratic system; political influence in the world; economic success; social security; science and technological achievements; sports; arts and literature; military; history; and fair treatment of all groups in society.
My country right or wrong?
A second set of questions tested people’s general national pride, asking to what extent they agreed with such statements as, “I would rather be a citizen of my country than any other country in the world,” “Generally speaking, my country is a better country than most countries”, and “I would support my country even if it were in the wrong.”
In area-specific pride, the United States led with an average score of 3.6, followed by Venezuela (3.9), Ireland (6.9), South Africa (7.9), Australia (7.9) and Canada (9.6). (A top score of 1.0 would be achieved if citizens rated their country as number one in all 10 areas.)
On the general pride measure, people in Venezuela scored 18.4 (out of a possible 25), followed by people in the US (17.7), Australia (17.5), Austria (17.4), South Africa (17), Canada (17), Chile (17.1), New Zealand (16.6) and Israel (16.2).
So, while Venezuela led on general national pride and finished second on area-specific pride, the US scored first on the latter and second on the former.
New nations, former colonies
Although these two countries have been at odds over a variety of issues recently, they share a common trait with most of the top 10 countries in the national pride survey – they are both relatively new nations that once were colonies.
“These countries formed their national identities through conflicts that bound their people together and created a national story that resonates with citizens,” said Tom Smith, author of the report and director of the General Social Survey at the NORC.
Patriotism is mostly a “New World” concept, the survey found: while former colonies and newer nations were more likely to rank high on the list, Western European, East Asian and former Socialist countries tended to rank near the middle or bottom.
National pride serves as a resource to buttress people’s fortitude during times of adversity, Smith said. Levels of pride in specific areas help shape dimensions of national identity, such as how people define a true member of their national group.
Globalism; bad manners
Countries that were part of the former Soviet Union or in the former Eastern Bloc ranked lower because they were still struggling to find new national identities, Smith said.
The countries at the bottom of the list were generally established countries in Europe. “It could be that those nations are experiencing a response to globalism, particularly among young people,” Smith said. “Many identify as much as being Europeans as they do as being citizens of their own country.
“In some European nations,” he added, “the concept of strong patriotism also has negative connotations.”
Cultural differences, Smith said, might explain the lower rankings of the three Asian countries on the list – Japan (18), Taiwan (29) and Korea (31) – where it is “both bad luck and poor manners” to be boastful about things.
Response to terrorism
In a separate report published in March, Smith and co-author Seokho Kim examined changes in national pride over the past decade, and found that countries with growing national pride were those that had experienced terrorist attacks on their citizens, such as the United States and Australia.
The study also found that within the surveyed countries, national pride was generally lower among minority groups, people with higher levels of education, and younger adults.
Ranking for (area-specific) national pride:
- United States
- South Africa
- New Zealand
- Great Britain
- Germany (West)
- Czech Republic
- Germany (East)