JOHN DERBYSHIRE: I Say Phooey To WALL STREET JOURNAL Poll On Patriotism (Why No Question On Immigration?)
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[Adapted from the latest Radio Derb, now available exclusively on]

An item much chewed over by commentators recently (here, here, here, here, and here) was a survey of the attitudes Americans hold towards topics like patriotism, religious belief, family life, and so on. The survey was conducted from March 1st to 13th by the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago and funded by the Wall Street Journal.

The sample size is 1,019 respondents, half of them in the suburbs, the rest split pretty evenly between rural and urban. That’s not a big sample: 4.1 percent sampling error at the 95 percent confidence level. It’s not a statistician’s dream, but it’s enough to give us some fair idea of what’s going on.

Bearing in mind that this survey was carried out with funding from the Wall Street Journal, I did not have high hopes that it would evince any interest in what hoi polloi think about’s signature issue: unrestrained mass immigration. But I thought I should check anyway.

Ctrl-F "immigr"? 0/0. Ctrl-F "migrant"? 0/0. Ctrl-F "asylum"? 0/0. Ctrl-F "refuge"? 0/0. Ctrl-F "border"? 0/0.

So I guess I was right. Our Ruling Class, including the people who determine Wall Street Journal disbursements and the people who run research centers at our universities, don’t give a fig how Americans feel about demographic replacement.

Of course in general the numbers turned up were not very cheering—well, not to those of us with a conservative temperament. Only 38 percent of respondents said that patriotism was very important to them. Twenty-five years ago the number was 70 percent [Traditional values like patriotism, religion and community have plunged dramatically among Americans: poll, by Mark Moore, NY Post, March 27, 2023]. That’s a heck of a drop.

Religion? This year, 39 percent of respondents said faith was very important to them. In 1998 the number was 62 percent.

Family formation? Thirty percent said having children was very important to them; that’s down from 59 percent in 1998, so it’s halved.

Getting involved in community affairs? Twenty-seven percent said ”very important.” That’s down from 62 percent just four years ago.

Tolerance for others? Fifty-eight percent, down from 80 percent just four years ago.

No surprises there.

So as I said, the numbers, including all those zeros for immigration, are not very cheering for conservatives. It sounds as though the poor old USA is going to the dogs.

What’s my take on all this?

I’m not much bothered by it.

For one thing, it’s old news. Community involvement? It’s close to a quarter century since Robert Putnam’s book Bowling Alone came out, lamenting the decline of voluntary organizations, clubs, fraternal organizations, and so on.

Decline in religious belief? Heck: I got a whole chapter out of that for my book We Are Doomed, which I wrote fifteen years ago. Sample quote from that chapter, Chapter 8:

The 2001 American Religious Identification Survey found that:

[T]he greatest increase in absolute as well as in percentage terms has been among those adults who do not subscribe to any religious identification; their number has more than doubled from 14.3 million in 1990 to 29.4 million in 2001; their proportion has grown from just eight percent of the total in 1990 to over fourteen percent in 2001.

There was never any good reason to suppose that American religiosity would resist the forces that have eroded faith elsewhere in the Western world. With mass communications and cheap long-distance travel, we are all just more worldly than our parents and grandparents.

And on the other side of that issue, this latest survey asks the question:

Which statement comes closest to expressing what you believe about God?

And then a list of options.

Leaving aside those who didn’t respond, the options were divided into six, ranging from ”I don’t believe in God” at the unbeliever end to, at the other end, ”I know God really exists and I have no doubts about it.”

By far the biggest proportion of respondents, 49 percent, put themselves in that latter category: They know God really exists and have no doubts about it.

That’s half of us—not exactly a roaring triumph for atheism and agnosticism.

As for patriotism: A person who knows British social history can’t discuss this in the early days of 2023 without recalling that February 9th this year was the 90th anniversary of an event that generated much scandalized commentary over there—way more than this survey has caused here.

That event was a debate at the Oxford Union Society on February 9th, 1933. That’s ”Oxford” as in ”University of Oxford.” The Oxford Union is one of the most prestigious debating societies in the U.K., and one of the oldest—founded just two hundred years ago.

The question for debate on that occasion in 1933: ”That this House will in no circumstances fight for its King and Country.” End quote.

What scandalized Britain was that this motion, when voted on, passed. Fifty-six percent of those voting agreed that no, they would in no circumstances fight for their King and Country.

Allowances should be, and were, made. The horrors of World War One were only fifteen years in the past. Those voting were all men—women were excluded from the Society until 1963. A high proportion of the voters were undergraduates at the university, liable to be drafted if a war broke out.

Nevertheless, some unknown number of them must, ten years later, have been in the British armed forces fighting the Axis powers in WW2.

And this year, 2023, on the 90th anniversary of that vote, the Oxford Union again debated the same motion. This time only 29 percent were in favor; the motion was defeated, 88 votes to 212.

These are the strange, swirling, not very well understood currents of social change. Attitudes and circumstances are volatile, and sometimes go into reverse.

Always bear that in mind, fellow conservatives. Say Not the Struggle Naught Availeth.

And it’s worth noting that current shibboleths don’t come altogether well out of that survey, e.g.

  • Do you favor, oppose, or neither favor nor oppose colleges and universities considering a student’s race and ethnicity when making decisions about student admissions?

”Strongly favor”: five percent. ”Strongly oppose”: 38 percent.

That’s a good healthy skepticism towards race preferences, at least in college admissions.

The Higher Ed Blob will of course go on practicing anti-white and anti-Asian discrimination anyway, by hook or by crook. But they don’t have much public support for the practice.

Similarly encouraging were the responses to questions about the current fad for ”transgenderism”—men pretending to be women, and vice versa.

Respondents were asked how they felt about:

  • Being asked to use gender-neutral pronouns, such as ”they/them,” when addressing another person.

”Very favorable”: 11 percent. ”Very unfavorable”: 35 percent.

Another question asked:

If you exclude the 26 percent who said ”Don’t know,” ”Not sure,” or who refused to answer, those with an opinion broke 56 percent to 17 percent saying the trannies should only play on teams that match the sex assigned at their birth.

That’s a good solid body of resistance to the transgender cult.

The survey didn’t ask a suitable question, but if they had asked I’m sure they would have found that practically no one wishes any harm to people who are confused about their sex, or to people suffering any other kind of nonviolent mental disturbance.

(I myself, in my January 2021 Diary, wrote an admiring and sympathetic obituary for the writer Jan Morris, who had made a full, surgical, male-to-female transition in her mid-forties.)

Likewise I’m sure they would have found, if they’d asked, majorities of respondents wanting some kind of restraint or censure of adults who encourage children to submit to chemical or surgical treatment in hopes of turning themselves into the other sex.

If little Timmy thinks he’d be happier as a girl, he should be told the same thing we’d tell him about drinking, smoking, voting, joining the army, or taking out a mortgage: to wait until he’s old enough to make a mature decision.

That’s good child-raising—and sound common sense.


John Derbyshire [email him] writes an incredible amount on all sorts of subjects for all kinds of outlets. (This no longer includes National Review, whose editors had some kind of tantrum and fired him.) He is the author of We Are Doomed: Reclaiming Conservative Pessimism and several other books. He has had two books published by com: FROM THE DISSIDENT RIGHT (also available in Kindle) and FROM THE DISSIDENT RIGHT II: ESSAYS 2013.

For years he’s been podcasting at Radio Derb, now available at for no charge. His writings are archived at

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