On Loving America: How to Keep a Meme Going

Please indicate your opinion on a complicated issue with a Y/N response.

Rudy Giuliani‘s remarks last week questioning President Obama’s patriotism got new life yesterday thanks to a HuffPost/YouGov poll. The poll is part of “daily public opinion polls on the issues of the day,” according to YouGov.

We know not all polls are created equal, but in this case we are wondering whether this poll should have been created at all.  Rather than examining an issue of the day, the polls appears to examine a specific someone’s issue. The questions align directly with Giuliani’s remarks: does Obama love America, is the president more or less patriotic than others, does he think the United States is exceptional? For symmetry’s sake, the same is asked of Giuliani and the participants themselves. But the symmetry is merely an exercise in aesthetics.

By opening up Giuliani’s accusation for public consideration, the poll confers a sheen of legitimacy to his claims. No longer are these the opinion of one man, but a concern for the entire country. And where there are polls, there are interpretive headlines. Consider the ones below. Watch how seamlessly they morph from an observation of party beliefs to an expression of the zeitgeist writ large.

TPM: Poll: Only 11 Percent Of Republicans Say Obama Loves America

Washington Times:  Poll: 62 percent of Republican voters don’t believe President Obama ‘loves’ America

HuffPost: Most Republicans Don’t Think Obama Loves America

National ReviewLess than Half in New Poll Think Obama Loves America

Politico: Poll: Obama may not love America

We haven’t even gotten around to discussing all the rich, nuanced, diverse and little-discussed meanings that exist for love, patriotism and exceptionalism, which the poll neither defines nor captures. But what poll can?