An Exceptional Nation? American Political Values in Comparative Perspective
This paper compares the political values and viewpoints of Americans with those of citizens of 19 other wealthy democracies. Drawing on the long history of scholarship and debate about “American Exceptionalism,” we ask whether Americans’ positions on issues of governance, taxation, equality, religion, and morality are significantly different from those of people in comparable countries in Europe and elsewhere. Using data from the International Social Survey Program’s Role of Government survey, the World Values Survey, and other sources, we show that, on almost all of these questions, Americans’ views are on average substantially to the right of those of people in our comparison countries: Americans are less supportive of redistribution and government intervention in the economy, are more likely to blame poverty on the failings of the poor, and are by far more religious. These findings confirm that Americans are on the whole more right-leaning than Europeans, Canadians, Australians, New Zealanders, and the Japanese.