American Political Ideology
In the current polarized U.S. political environment, what it means to be a “true American” is increasingly contested. Researchers often look to conceptualizations of patriotism and nationalism to account for national identity; but the extent to which these measures capture current understandings of American identity beyond left and right political divides is unknown. In a novel application of Q-methodology, this study investigates the relationship between patriotism and nationalism measures and participants’ subjective understandings of their national identity. Forty-seven U.S. citizens representing a wide range of ideological positions constructed American identity profiles by ranking 56 statements taken from patriotic and nationalistic operationalizations. The two extracted profiles revealed national identities largely along left/right ideological, not patriotism/nationalism, lines. Further analysis indicated that the political left and right also differently interpret items within patriotism and nationalism measures. These findings highlight the intertwining of American national identity and political ideology; they also cast doubt on the ideological independence and descriptive value of patriotism and nationalism measures.