35% support truly limited government, with almost as many wanting the most government they can get.
A recent Gallup poll shows that Americans are fairly evenly divided in their beliefs about the proper roll of government. When asked to rate their preference on a scale of 1 to 5 (1 meaning the respondent prefers limited government, and 5 meaning the respondent prefers a government that takes active steps to improve the lives of citizens) 35% of Americans said that they would prefer Washington take a more limited role in their daily lives.
32%, on the other hand, favor big government, and the remaining third of respondents fell somewhere in between.
Gallup has asked this question four times since 2010, and each time, Americans have divided themselves roughly into thirds favoring a more active government, a less active government, or something in between. This division is especially noteworthy because the government’s role in solving the nation’s problems has been arguably more salient in recent years during the housing crisis, financial crisis, economic recession, and passage of the Affordable Care Act.
Generally speaking, Republicans favor a smaller role for government, while Democrats are happy with expanding federal reach. One thing that Americans do seem to agree on, however, is the current level of influence policymakers in Washington have on our everyday lives:
When asked in a separate question about the government’s current activity level, 54% of Americans say the government is “trying to do too many things that should be left to individuals and businesses.” Meanwhile, 41% say the government should “do more to solve our country’s problems.”
Gallup has asked this question since 1992, including during four different presidential administrations — two Republican and two Democratic. Americans’ opinions appear to be influenced by which party is in the White House, and whether the president prefers a more active or a less active government. During the two Republican administrations, an average of 49% of Americans said the government was doing too much, compared with 55% during the two Democratic administrations.
Although these numbers haven’t seen much movement over the past four years, I still think that this poll shows that conservatives have an opportunity to move the needle with those who fall somewhere in the middle. Grabbing a few extra percentage points from people who are fed up with big government could translate into more votes for Republican candidates.
Even if Republicans do keep the House and take back the Senate in November, we will still need to build on that momentum in the build up to 2016. If we can convince voters of the destructive forces of big government by actually showing them the results of progressive policies, it will be easier for candidates and activists to make their message resonate on the national stage.DONATE
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