Are you more of a nationalist or a cosmopolitan? Or both?
Recent events suggest that a nationalist backlash to globalization is on the rise. The United Kingdom’s decision to leave the European Union, Donald Trump’s win in the U.S. presidential election and the growing popularity of right-wing parties in France, Austria and Germany attest to this.
Liberals in particular are puzzled by the spike in nationalism on a global scale. Some may wonder, where have all the global citizens gone? The answer, I argue, is nowhere. The confusion comes in because the ideal of a selfless global citizen, someone who puts global issues above national interests, does not really exist.
It’s true. Data from the World Values Survey shows that since the early 1990s, the integration of markets, communities and cultures has bred a new generation of people who consider themselves “cosmopolitan,” or global citizens. The World Values Survey was started by social scientists in 1981, and is often conducted face-to-face with representative samples of adults from each country. Researchers such as Pippa Norris and Roland Inglehart, among others, have also used the World Values Survey data to identify trends in cosmopolitanism.
Three-fourths of nearly 85,000 adult respondents from 60 countries surveyed by the World Values Survey between 2010 and 2014 identified as global citizens.
However, my research shows that global citizenship and nationalism are not mutually exclusive.
Global citizens love their country
Of those who strongly identified as global citizens in the latest round of the World Values Survey, 82 percent also strongly identified with their nation, and 74 percent are highly proud of their nation.
About 68 percent of the 2,176 respondents from the U.S. expressed either a strong or a moderate degree of global citizenship. Of these global citizens, more than 46 percent also strongly identify with the United States, and 61 percent are very proud to be American. Similar patterns exist in Europe, the Middle East and Asia.
This data suggests that most global citizens do not shed their national identity. Global citizens are still protective of national interests.
Consider this. The 2005-2009 World Values Survey included a question (not repeated in the latest round) that asked respondents whether their nation’s leaders should give top priority to help reduce poverty in the world, or solve their own country’s problems. About 62 percent of those who identified as global citizens said they would put their country’s problems first. The policy implication of this is that global citizens are not necessarily interested in increasing foreign development aid to poor countries.
Many global citizens also take a hard-line stance on immigration. Of those who strongly identified as global citizens, more than 36 percent supported making immigration conditional on the availability of jobs. Some 35 percent preferred placing strict limits on immigration, and about 12 percent supported a total ban. Only about 16 percent of global citizens favored unrestricted movement of people.
When it comes to requirements for citizenship, many global citizens supported models of citizenship that require ancestral bonds. About 70 percent of those who strongly identified as global citizens said ancestry is important in qualifying for citizenship.
What is global citizenship then?
What this data suggest is that while many see global citizenship and nationalism as polar opposites, they are not. The growth of the number of people who identify as global citizens does not mean nationalist concerns, hawkish foreign policies and isolationism are concepts of the past. For many, being a global citizen and a nationalist go hand in hand.
Global citizenship is an acquired social identity that is shaped by how individuals prioritize values such as universalism and self-enhancement. As I show in my article published in the European Journal of International Relations, global citizenship is compatible with both selfish and altruistic values. While some global citizens are motivated by universal moral concerns such as protecting the environment and the welfare of human beings, others are simply driven by egoistic motives. And these egoistic motives can be used to protect the nation.
The million-dollar question is, how do people really understand global citizenship? Right now, we have a better idea of what global citizenship is not than of what it is. Global citizens do not seem to like conformity, status quo and convention, but they like the nation and even put it first.