The Economist has an exceptional (pardon the semi-pun) article on so-called "American Exceptionalism" in this week's issue.
For anyone on either side of the Atlantic or Pacific (or just north or south of the border) who has wondered, "is America different?", the article shows that Americans and their attitudes are truly different. In comparison to citizens of other nations, Americans are much more patriotic and religious, and believe far more in freedom than the welfare state.
On the other hand, Americans are also deeply divided, with Republicans representing the patriotic, conservative side, and the Democrats comprising the peace-loving, secular, socially-liberal side. A fascinating poll shows that almost all of the decline on George W. Bush's overall approval ratings can be attributed to the changing attitudes of the Democrats. Bush's approval ratings among Republicans spiked from 85% to close to 100% following 9/11, and have gradually declined to their pre-9/11 levels. In contrast, Bush's approval ratings among Democrats spiked from 30% to 85% in the wake of 9/11, but immediately began a sharp decline that has brought them down to about 18% today.
Anyone who is interested in why a seeming gulf has sprung up between America and the rest of the world should read this article.