Majority in United States Still Say Government Doing Too Much

September 20, 2012

As the presidential campaign heats up, the candidates have sought to distinguish themselves on one of the most important issues in the election: the role of government in the life of Americans, says Gallup.

  • Fifty-four percent of Americans believe the government is trying to do too many things.
  • Only 39 percent of Americans believe that the government should do more to solve the nation's problems.
  • Only a few times in the past 20 years have a higher percentage of Americans said the government should do more than is doing too much: in 1992 and 1993 when Clinton had run and been in office and right after the September 11 attacks.

The data was collected as part of Gallup's governance survey, which overlapped with the Democratic National Convention. The convention may be the reason why more Americans are satisfied with the way things are going than previously. It can also explain the drop in the number of Americans that think the government is doing too much -- 61 percent said the government was doing too much earlier this summer.

The poll reflects the partisan division in Americans' views on the role of government.

  • Two-thirds of Democrats think government should do more.
  • A bigger percentage of those that identify as Republicans think the government is doing too much that should be left to individuals.
  • Furthermore, more than six in 10 independents think the government is doing too much.

The poll also asked Americans to characterize the scope of government power.

  • The poll shows that Americans are split in half between those that say the government has too much power and those that think the government has just the right amount or little to no power.
  • This is in contrast to last year, when 57 percent of Americans said the government has too much power.

The answer to whether the government has too much power changes based on which party is in power. Republicans agreed that the government had the right amount of power under the Bush administration while Democrats thought the government had too much power. Those views flipped once Obama took office.

Source: Frank Newport, "Majority in U.S. Still Say Government Doing Too Much," Gallup, September 17, 2012.

 

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