American Types: Are you a Traditional Individualist? Classic “Traditional Individualist”: In the 1960s, John Wayne was a strong supporter of the war in Vietnam. He was so eager to defend what he perceived as our national security that he gave up a major role in The Dirty Dozen to make The Green Berets with his own production company. The movie was such an over-the-top defense of American forces, right or wrong, that Roger Ebert gave the movie zero stars and the New York Times called it “vile,” “insane”—and, worst of all, “dull.” But Wayne had the last laugh: The film enjoyed great commercial success. Wayne credited the bad reviews with the popular response across the U.S.Are there different types of Americans? As the election season shifts up a gear, we’re going to hear more and more about how different we are from one another. Comparisons are easy to make: liberals versus conservatives, Republicans versus Democrats, Red States versus Blue States.

But are these differences real?

If you look for differences, you can find them. I found three different types of Americans, based on my national surveys of American values. Today I’ll tell you about the traditional individualists. Tuesday and Wednesday I’ll tell you about the religious conservatives and young progressives. These differences are real, but the main message is this: I also found strong evidence that these three types of Americans share a common set of core American values. On Thursday, I’ll tell you what those are.

So who are these “traditional individualists”? The phrase reflects the intensity of their values about national security and moral destiny, along with their endorsement of individualistic values. Of the three types, traditional individualists have the strongest beliefs in America’s moral destiny and the highest level of uncritical patriotism—my country, right or wrong. Traditional individualists have the strongest concerns for national security and are willing to trade individual freedoms for national security.

Traditional individualists prefer to rely on themselves. They define freedom as being left alone to do what they want. And, they feel that the individual is the ultimate arbiter of right and wrong.

But they are also religious. Religion is important to them. They tend to be mainline or conservative Christians. Few say they are atheists, agnostics, or have no religion. Politically, the majority are middle of the road or conservative. Traditional individualists live throughout the United States, but tend to reside in the south.

Are you a traditional individualist?

How would you describe this type of American?

Do you agree that John Wayne fits the category? Who else?

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Originally published at, an online experiment in civil dialogue.

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