An occasional review of technology, markets, and ideas.

Don't Tread on Me?

Would Americans fight an invading force?

The Gadsden Flag, long a symbol of a self-confident willingness to fight against coercion, features both the image of a rattlesnake and a sentiment that are hard to miss.

Gadsden Flag

The rattlesnake first appeared in 1751 in one of Benjamin Franklin's papers where he satirically suggested that the colonies send rattlesnakes to Britain in exchange for them sending convicted criminals to the Province of Georgia. Later, Franklin published the famous "Join or Die" cartoon during the French and Indian War, which depicted the American Colonies (S.C., N.C., V., P., N.J., N.Y., and N.E.) as segments of the snake, exhorting them to unite against the French and the Native Americans.

Benjamin Franklin's "Join or Die" Cartoon

In 1778, the rattlesnake was included in the design for the seal of the War Office. At the top of the image you can see the snake with the phrase "This We'll Defend."

1775: This We'll Defend; 2022: This We'll Abandon

Behind the flags and symbology the sentiment was clear: we were willing to defend against any and all foreign adversaries. Fast forward 247 years and we seem to have lost this pugilistic posture.

Quinnipiac Polling & Willingness to Fight

All of this serves as a useful backdrop to a recent Quinnipiac Poll that asked 1,374 US adults various questions about NATO, Russia, Ukraine, and finally about US willingness to take up arms in defense of the United States.

The specific question that was asked to respondents was "If you were in the same position as Ukrainians are now, do you think that you would stay and fight or leave the country?"

Quinnipiac Poll Cross Tabs, Question 8

Analyzing the cross tabs, there are a couple key takeaways:

  • A majority of Americans (55%) would "stay and fight" if a foreign country invaded the United States.
  • Republicans are far more likely to stay and fight as compared to Democrats. Indeed, the data show a 28% difference between D and R willingness to fight (68/40).
  • Younger people seem to be far less willing to stay and fight and in the 18-34 age bucket, there is not even a majority who say they would stay and fight. This is somewhat surprising given younger people tend to be more impulsive, hot headed, and willing to fight.
  • Most interestingly, looking at the racial cross tab, Hispanics are actually more willing to stay and fight for the country (61%) compared to both White (57%) and Black (38%).

What are we to take away from this? Some might be heartened to see that a majority of people would stay and fight if the US were invaded and I'd be remiss if I didn't point out that a poll like this is fairly abstract. It's possible that people underweight how likely they would be to pick up arms in the remote chance that a foreign adversary invaded.

However, in this respect, I'm much less sanguine. Given our fortuitous geographic location, it's highly unlikely we would ever be invaded. As such, you'd expect far more people claiming to be willing to pick up arms in defense of the country since it is so remote. I'll bet George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, and the rest of the Founding Fathers are rolling over in their graves.

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Jamie Larson