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What Being American Means to Today's Youth

Author: George H. Gallup Jr.


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What does it mean to be an American? In a recent Gallup Youth Survey*, Gallup posed this question to U.S. teens (aged 13 to 17). Asked on an open-ended basis, the question allowed respondents to offer whatever answer came to mind. While some people might expect disinterested replies, teens' responses reveal a deep and sincere appreciation of the implications of their status as Americans.

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Sep 25
Jesus Hernandez (Sep 25 2021 1:47PM) : An amreican more

When you are an american you have rights and you need to follow them and if you dont it might get you intrubble.

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Oct 7
Carolina Vega-Gastelum Davila (Oct 07 2021 3:53PM) : . more

in america u have a lot of rights and freedom sometimes

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Oct 28
Isabella Lopez (Oct 28 2021 1:10PM) : Being american in a nutshell is having rights and freedom .sadly most will overlook the negatives and never see the gilded garbage it can be
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Oct 29
Jaqueline Payan Villegas (Oct 29 2021 1:47AM) : you have to follow rights,
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Nov 17
Melany Arellano Montes (Nov 17 2021 12:02PM) : . more

Being an american you have alot of rights and liberty

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Sep 24
Josiah Romero (Sep 24 2021 3:37PM) : What dose it mean to be American? What it Means to be an American. Being American means that you have respect for your country; it means that you have integrity and moral ethics; that you show patriotism and that you support your country no matter what.
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Sep 24
Juan Soto (Sep 24 2021 5:00PM) : What Being American Means to Today's Youth more

being american to the youth means they think they can do what they want because there american

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Sep 25
Marcos Garcia Molina (Sep 25 2021 12:54PM) : being an america is cool i have a lot of writes and freedom liberty and that you can make your own decisions about where you want to live,
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Teens frequently mentioned freedom, or some aspect of it, in their responses. One 17-year-old boy said being an American means having "freedom to choose what school I want to attend, what church I want to go to, study what I am interested in, travel freely throughout this country without any restrictions, listen to any radio or TV stations that I want to, and achieve my career and educational goals ... without any influence from any government or military group." A 15-year-old boy said, "Being an American means being proud of my country and defending our right to free speech and the freedom to be who we are." He ended his comments dramatically: "I will defend my right to be free to the death."

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Teens Don't Have to Agree With the Government

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The war in Iraq has raised many questions about the meaning of patriotism. However, some teens stressed that being American does not mean one has to agree with all the government's actions. A 16-year-old girl said, "Being an American is just caring about the good of America. It doesn't mean agreeing with everything the government does, but at the same time you have to agree with the most core values … freedom to life, liberty, pursuit of happiness, speech, etc." A 17-year-old boy said, "It means having citizenship in the United States. It doesn't matter if you burn flags or join the armed forces, if you have citizenship you are American."

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Sep 24
Orlando Gonzalez II (Sep 24 2021 2:08PM) : what is means to be american more

To be american use to be something to be proud of something which represent money something to what they would so call ‘flex’. now that people have better understanding that race doesnt rlly have anything to do with what u can do or what u want to be. To be american is just to know our history and hold our pride

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Sep 24
Saul Arias (Sep 24 2021 2:09PM) : theres nothing special about being american more

being an american is nothing special you can only agree or disagree from what they have to say

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Sep 24
Denalee Juarez (Sep 24 2021 3:46PM) : i agree
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Sep 24
Violet Jones (Sep 24 2021 4:55PM) : I agree
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Sep 24
Isaac Medina Sanchez (Sep 24 2021 2:16PM) : what it means to be an american more

it means to be an american that your in a good state and that your probably not being racially motivated with other people.

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Sep 24
Albert Carranza (Sep 24 2021 2:31PM) : the war in Iraq has raised many questions about the meaning of patriotism
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Sep 24
Jeffry Cota Fabela (Sep 24 2021 3:09PM) : many questions have been raised from the patriotism more

Being an American has always just been being an American citizen for me. It was never anything special to me because I am an immigrant. Being separated from the American image, being American never seemed like something to be proud of.

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Sep 24
Jeanece Cruz Lopez (Sep 24 2021 3:15PM) : A common theme in the replies is that being an American and having freedom opens the door to great opportunities
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Sep 24
Joey Sanchez (Sep 24 2021 3:22PM) : being an america is cool i have a lot of writes and freedom
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Sep 24
Mabel Espinoza (Sep 24 2021 3:26PM) : being American is somehow good more

America is a great place it has everything,and you can make your dreams come true. But the people are very racist they hate everyone that is different. They hate everything that is different your eyes, your skin, the language you speak, your culture. They don’t care because they are still gonna hate you because you are not like them.

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Sep 24
Jordin Mejia Florez (Sep 24 2021 3:39PM) : american and race more

being an american is not really special.but, now that people have a better understanding on how race has nothing to do with what you want to be or what you want to do it doesn’t really matter if your american or not

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Sep 24
Julianna Martinez (Sep 24 2021 3:53PM) : what it means to be an "american" more

to be an american you have certain advantages that others places dont have, we all know that but being an american is sad because when we where smaller we saw the bright side of things and now we can see what really happens and what our country really did. Not to mention most of the time you get justice for things when your a white american, yes there are some cases where colored people got justice but thats after so many protesting and things like that but even “winning” a case is very very hard, they make it that way. it shouldn’t have to be like this, people get treated with different amount of respect based of of the color of their skin, i feel like that is one of the most dumbest things ever. Like white people have white privilege and why,whats so special about them that they are “automatically” “higher” than other races/ethnicity. They have done many big bad things so why are they still put first, races/ethnicity should not be ranked but yet they still are. to me being an american is something i cannot control but i dont support how some things work in our government.

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Oct 5
Destiny Wills (Oct 05 2021 2:22PM) : . more

theres nothing special about being american
being an american is nothing special you can only agree or disagree from what they have to say

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Oct 28
Scarlett Soto Acuna (Oct 28 2021 1:13PM) : being american has nothing special everyone is supposed to have the same rights
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Sep 24
Mayrim Juarez Navarro (Sep 24 2021 1:20PM) : Does being American give you pride? more

Being an American has always just been being an American citizen for me. It was never anything special to me because I am an immigrant. Being separated from the American image, being American never seemed like something to be proud of.

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Sep 24
Karla Hernandez (Sep 24 2021 2:21PM) : what it means being american more

being american used to be something to be proud of but that people know how the racism is now

Many Note Freedoms and Welcome Diversity

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The United States, by virtue of its founding principles, is a nation of diverse religions, cultures, races, and ethnicities. A 16-year-old girl said that being an American means being "able to have our own ideas and beliefs, and being able to express [them], along with the freedom of being an individual who is different from everyone." A 14-year-old girl gave this response: "I think to be an American means accepting others, treating everyone equally, being open to new ideas and thoughts, understanding and appreciating your freedom, and not taking what your ancestors did for granted."

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Criticism and Apathy

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A few teens gave apathetic answers, and some were notably critical. But such downbeat responses were rare. "To be an American is to be blind to [the] world's problems, and to consume its resources," said one 16-year-old boy. A 16-year-old girl commented, "I am grateful to be in a country with so many freedoms. I just don't like how high-headed America is and how we may be a little more headstrong than we can handle."

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An Open Door to the Future

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A common theme in the replies is that being an American and having freedom opens the door to great opportunities. One 13-year-old boy said it means "having the freedom to make choices in my life -- I can be as successful or unsuccessful as I want to be." A 14-year-old girl said to be an American is "to have freedom. To be able to dream and try to be anything you want … My parents taught me to always do my best and to always have hope, even if you get knocked down over and over. In America, you have the right to always get up!"

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Bottom Line

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Perhaps somewhat surprisingly in these uncertain times, teens tend to show deep appreciation of what it means to be American. While writing about freedoms, they also note citizens' obligations. Negative and cynical voices are rarely heard. One 17-year-old girl reflected: "…we are a group of people who have dreams and live in a place where we have the chance to fulfill them." Another 16-year-old simply said it means "being part of a nation that tries to be good."

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Oct 28
preston ellingford (Oct 28 2021 2:50PM) : yes and you don't have to be born in american to be a american more

a lot of people come to america for freedom

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*The Gallup Youth Survey is conducted via an Internet methodology provided by Knowledge Networks, using an online research panel that is designed to be representative of the entire U.S. population. The current questionnaire was completed by 517 respondents, aged 13 to 17, between Aug. 1 and Aug. 29, 2003. For results based on the total sample, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±5 percentage points.

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DMU Timestamp: February 08, 2018 18:47

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Sep 23
Francisco Lugo Enriquez (Sep 23 2021 6:09PM) : the war in Iraq has raised many questions about the meaning of patriotism
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Sep 24
Naeva Ortega (Sep 24 2021 11:46AM) : Somewhat Proud more

Some people seam to have different definitions of what it means to be American. Some are proud and some are not.

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Sep 24
Angel Valenzuela Hoyos (Sep 24 2021 12:35PM) : at America they good people make some good and they haf everting
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Sep 24
Jamela Abdulkadir (Sep 24 2021 1:03PM) : What being American means to me more

I think being an American means that you have rights, liberty and that you can make your own decisions about where you want to live, where you would like to work, who you’d like to marry, etc.

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Sep 24
Jacquelyn Borunda (Sep 24 2021 2:26PM) : What being american means to me more

I mean yeah that’s true we have our rights and freedom but sometimes im not really pround to be american cause im more in the mexican side

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