Gallup released an interesting poll this week showing that nearly half of all Americans view government as “an immediate threat to the rights and freedoms of ordinary citizens.” Interestingly, this is “similar to what was found in previous surveys conducted over the last five years”; however, “when this question was first asked in 2003, less than a third of Americans held this attitude.”
The latest results are from Gallup’s Sept. 9-13 Governance poll. The lower percentage of Americans agreeing in 2003 that the federal government posed an immediate threat likely reflected the more positive attitudes about government evident after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. The percentage gradually increased to 44% by 2006, and then reached the 46% to 49% range in four surveys conducted since 2010.
The remarkable finding about these attitudes is how much they reflect apparent antipathy toward the party controlling the White House, rather than being a purely fundamental or fixed philosophical attitude about government.
It’s no accident, for example, that when Democrats start and/or renew pushes for gun control, gun and ammo sales skyrocket. Of course, this isn’t just about gun control; it encompasses everything from government surveillance to over-regulation to fundamental First Amendment rights.
Overall, Americans who agree that the government is an immediate threat tend to respond with very general complaints echoing the theme that the federal government is too big and too powerful, and that it has too many laws. They also cite nonspecific allegations that the government violates freedoms and civil liberties, and that there is too much government in people’s private lives.
The most frequently mentioned specific threats involve gun control laws and violations of the Second Amendment to the Constitution, mentioned by 12% who perceive the government to be an immediate threat.
Other general complaints enunciated by smaller numbers of those who think the government poses an immediate threat include perceptions that the government is “socialist,” that the government spends too much, that it picks winners and losers such as the wealthy or racial and ethnic minorities, that it is too involved in things it shouldn’t be and that it violates the separation of powers.
More specific complaints — again voiced by small numbers of those who agree with the threat statement — focus on freedom of speech, freedom of religion, the overuse of police and law enforcement, government surveillance of private citizens including emails and phone records, government involvement in gay marriage issues, overregulation of business, overtaxing, the healthcare law and immigration.
In short, the bigger and more intrusive government gets, the more the American people see it as a threat to their individual liberty. Obama’s efforts to make big government seem “cool” or an integral, necessary part of our lives (remember Julia and the cradle to grave vision of government dependency she represented?) have failed abysmally.
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