What Do The American People Believe About Government?

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As the November elections draw near, a number of polling organizations have been asking the American people fundamental questions about what they believe about politics and what they believe about government.  So what have these polls shown?  Well, it is undeniable that distrust and dissatisfaction with the government is growing.  The American people are getting fed up with what is going on in Washington.  It is also clear that the number of Americans that are in favor of big government is decreasing.  But it is actually more complicated than that.  It appears that the American people want the government to get off their backs, but they also want the government to do more and to provide more services.  The American people apparently want fewer laws but more protections.  The American people seem to want lower taxes but also more government spending to stimulate the economy.  In other words, the American people want to have their cake and eat it too. 


The following statistics are taken from two recent surveys.  One is a new USA TODAY/Gallup Poll and the other is a new study by The Washington Post, the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation and Harvard University.  These surveys reveal that the American people are very conflicted regarding what they believe about government.

The following are results from the two surveys that seem to indicate that the American people want a smaller government that does less….

*59 percent of Americans believe that the United States is seriously on the wrong track.  This was up 12 percent from a similar poll taken in the summer of 2000.

*Only one out of every four Americans is satisfied with the way the nation is being governed.

*Approximately six out of every 10 Americans say that the federal government has too much power.

*58 percent of Americans believe that the federal government is doing too many things that should be left to individuals and businesses.

*About half of all Americans believe that there is too much government regulation of business.

*Approximately three out of every four Americans believe that business can do things more efficiently than the government can.

*About six out of every 10 Americans disagree with the idea that the federal government generally does things in a way that is fairer than the way that business would do things.

*Almost half of all Americans agree with the following statement: “The federal government poses an immediate threat to the rights and freedom of ordinary citizens.”

*Over 40 percent of those asked gave the federal government a grade of either a D or an F.

The following are results from the two surveys that seem to indicate that the American people want a bigger government that does more….

*Almost two-thirds of all Americans believe that the federal government should be doing more to fight poverty.

*Close to 60 percent of Americans say that they want their members of Congress to battle for more government spending in their districts in order to spark job creation.

*Close to 60 percent of Americans say that it is the job of the federal government to ensure that all Americans have adequate health care.

*55 percent of those responding said that the U.S. government is not paying enough attention to the biggest issues.

*About 50 percent of Americans say that they would prefer more government spending to try to stimulate the overall U.S. economy.

*36 percent of Americans believe that the federal government should do even more than it is doing to solve the country’s problems.

So there you have it.

What Americans believe about government is a mess of contradictions.

Americans want a smaller government that takes fewer taxes from them and that makes fewer demands on them.

At the same time, Americans want a government that does more, protects them better and even spends more money if necessary to stimulate the economy.

But what should we expect?

The truth is that America is deeply divided.

About half of the country wants to continue the march towards big government and European-style socialism, while the other half wants to return to the limited government that was originally set forth in the U.S. Constitution.

America is becoming more liberal and more conservative at the same time.  We have developed deep ideological divisions which threaten to tear this nation in two if we are not careful.

But the truth is that both major political parties have aggressively expanded the size of government in recent decades.  The administration of George W. Bush did more to expand the size of the federal government than any other previous administration.  Now Barack Obama and his socialist friends are doing their best to outdo Bush.

It seems like there is always an excuse for the government to get bigger and to grab more power. 

“We’ve got to grab more power because of national security.”

“We’ve got to grab more power because of the economic crisis.”

“We’ve got to grab more power to fix the health care system.”

Both parties have been aggressively spending our money for decades.  Both parties are responsible for piling up the biggest mountain of debt in the history of the world.  Both parties are responsible for leading us down a path that is far from what our Founding Fathers intended.

So will the United States ever return to a limited government as we were originally intended to have under the U.S. Constitution?

That is for the American people to decide.

  • Lisa

    An excellent article. The ideological divides in this country are the biggest threat to us, for a house divided against itself cannot stand. Washington warned us about the divisions political parties would create, and he was most certainly right. Hooray for nonpartisanship!

  • Well written, but I think there’s another possibility suggested by these poll results… one that actually supports your position, but better explains the results.

    We do live in a divided America; there is little doubt of that. However, between the dedicated souls in each political camp lies a “center” of voters who vote as the political winds blow. I believe that this poll likely describes them.

    You point out two conclusion of the poll results:
    “Americans want a smaller government that takes fewer taxes from them and that makes fewer demands on them.

    At the same time, Americans want a government that does more, protects them better and even spends more money if necessary to stimulate the economy.”

    So, they want less control and fewer demands, but more benefits and more services. Consider this: such an attitude is the inherent attitude of an undisciplined, spoiled child. What seem to be divergent political directions are in reality two halves of the same childish, selfish and unrealistic philosophy.

    Sadly, I believe what we have is an American culture that implicitly recognizes and rewards the desire of the spoiled child, and thus we have raised generations of spoiled children. “Give me my every desire, and stay out of my way,” is their battle cry, their mantra. Thus this seemingly contradictory poll result. Thus the truism that the two political parties are sides of the same Big Government coin.

  • Gary

    If government truly represented average folks instead of the rich and the corporations then I think peoples opinion would be more positive.

    Think about it-in one long weekend Wall street got bailed out. There was tremendous seance of urgency to save the rich. Now if there was this same urgency to help the poor and middle class this would go a long way in improving peoples perception of government.

    I have no issue with the size of government, heck I wish I could get a government job as they are the only ones that pay a living wage and have good benefits unlike most of the crap low pay service private sector jobs.

    I even find it somewhat ironic that the people who bellow the loudest about government are working in the government and have a good job. What dolts! There are so many people who would love a government job that the chances of getting one are almost nil.

  • Justa Guy



    People always say if you don’t vote D or R, you’re wasting your vote. Wouldn’t you rather your vote was wasted, than it going to these turds anyway? These parties have been going back and forth in power, but things have continued to go downhill regardless of which is in power. Don’t be a mindless idiot and keep voting for them. Use your brain for yourself, instead of letting the “mainstream media” use it to sop up the slop they keep feeding you. Unless you are in the top 1% financially, YOUR D’S AND R’S HAVE SOLD YOU OUT.

  • Ebin

    Well this is obvious because with a two part system people contradict each other, this is common sense. The real fix for all of this is to get rid of a governing body altogether and just do things for ourselves..not let business dictate the country, not let rich apathetic douchebags dictate the country, but let us dictate our own lives and live the way we want to live and where we want to live. the second best alternative would be to do communism the right way. Also i agree with Justa gay, i’ve been trying really hard to get all of my friends to just not vote at all…in a perfect world.