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Our resilient nation

You should not be surprised to learn that Americans are, generally, a proud people, enjoying confidence in their country and its institutions. You might be surprised, however, to learn that this buoyant sense has not decreased, but increased, since the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11.

A National Tragedy Study, conducted by the University of Chicago, finds that 97.4 percent of Americans would rather be citizens of this country than any other country in the world. That figure is up from 90.4 percent last year.

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Ask Americans what they are proud of, and their responses are: scientific and technological achievements, followed by the American armed forces, American history, and economic achievements. Confidence in America's institutions - banks, major companies, and organized religion - has risen.

And regard for government is up sharply. For the executive branch, it stood at 51.5 percent, and for Congress at 43.4 percent; in both cases, almost quadrupled in one year.

On a personal level, people tended to find one another more fair, more helpful, more trustworthy, than they did in the year 2000. And after all this country has been through since September, most Americans - 54.4 percent - think that human nature is basically good.

Something else seems to be happening: a new sense of internationalism. According to a study by the Pew Research Center and the Council on Foreign Relations, about 2 to 1 - 61 percent to 32 percent - think that taking an active role in the world is a better way to deal with terrorism than not being involved. And those who think that the interests of our allies should be considered are up from 48 to 59 percent.

But only 41 percent of those polled said life had returned to normal for them since Sept. 11. And in a separate Gallup poll, Americans listed terrorism at the top of the problems facing this country.

It's a snapshot of America in a time of travail - the picture of an apparently resilient nation learning to cope with an assault of unprecedented proportions.

Daniel Schorr is a senior news analyst at NPR.


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