How Much Government Is Good Government? Americans’ Opinions Evenly Divided

0 Shares
americans0919_image

A Gallup survey released Wednesday indicates a virtually dead-even three-way split in Americans’ opinions on the extent to which government “problem-solving” measures should permeate society, with virtually the same proportion of respondents advocating for big government as for small government. Those who believe government should play a moderate role in society comprised the remaining third.

The survey, which used a graduated five-point rating system to gauge Americans’ opinions about the role government ought to play, questioned 1,510 adults over a four-day period earlier this month. On the five-point scale, “5” represents government activism; “1” represents government at its most bare-bones functional.

Gallup worded the survey this way, phrasing the question under the heading “Preference Regarding Federal Government’s Role”:

Where would you rate yourself on a scale of 1 to 5, where 1 means you think the government should do only those things necessary to provide the most basic government functions, and 5 means you think the government should tale active steps in every area it can to try and improve the lives of its citizens? You may use any number from 1 to 5.

An even 33 percent of respondents answered with a “3,” while 19 percent answered “5” and 16 percent answered “1.” Adding the progressives together — the percentage of people who answered either “4” or “5” — and big government appeals to 34 percent of those surveyed. Adding the “1” and “2” responses of small-government advocates yields a nearly identical number: 32 percent.

Things got a bit more interesting when Gallup asked whether people would favor a more limited government if, in the bargain, it meant that their tax burden would decrease. More than half would rather see the government get smaller, in exchange for tax reductions:

Although Americans’ basic preferences are divided between active and limited government, they tilt more heavily in the direction of limited government in a separate question asking for their preferred tradeoff between taxes and government involvement. A majority, 53%, favor less government involvement in addressing the nation’s problems in order to reduce taxes, while 13% favor more government involvement to address the nation’s problems, and higher taxes. Another 31% believe government involvement and taxes should be the same as they are now.

In addition, 55 percent of respondents said they think the current government is attempting to play too active a role in improving people’s lives, compared with 38 percent who believe the government isn’t doing enough. That’s the highest percentage of people who believe the current batch of national elected leaders are too hands-on since Gallup began asking the question in 1992.

Ben Bullard

Reconciling the concept of individual sovereignty with conscientious participation in the modern American political process is a continuing preoccupation for staff writer Ben Bullard. A former community newspaper writer, Bullard has closely observed the manner in which well-meaning small-town politicians and policy makers often accept, unthinkingly, their increasingly marginal role in shaping the quality of their own lives, as well as those of the people whom they serve. He argues that American public policy is plagued by inscrutable and corrupt motives on a national scale, a fundamental problem which individuals, families and communities must strive to solve. This, he argues, can be achieved only as Americans rediscover the principal role each citizen plays in enriching the welfare of our Republic.

Join the Discussion

Comment Policy: We encourage an open discussion with a wide range of viewpoints, even extreme ones, but we will not tolerate racism, profanity or slanderous comments toward the author(s) or comment participants. Make your case passionately, but civilly. Please don't stoop to name calling. We use filters for spam protection. If your comment does not appear, it is likely because it violates the above policy or contains links or language typical of spam. We reserve the right to remove comments at our discretion.

  • robanbieber

    It is amazing the mental disconnect that people have that want bigger government but do not want higher taxes….. where do they actually think that the money comes from for bigger government?… oh yeah they can just print more money which is what we are doing now …. this is a disaster happening before our very eyes…..

    • vicki

      The apparent disconnect occurs because we fail to remember that the people that want bigger government do want higher taxes…. on the rich.

      • rivahmitch

        The old “Don’t tax you, Don’t tax me, Tax that fellow behind the tree.” syndrome. TANSTAAFL!!!

  • Doc Sarvis

    Close to 100% of those surveyed used government roads that day, use or know someone who uses Medicare/Medicaid, uses the mail, enjoys relatively clean air and water, has relatively healthy food choices, enjoys a consistent energy grid, if they are not in states rolling back voting rights (like NC and others) can vote for their representatives, have local law enforcement and emergency services, etc.