In our darker moments, dispirited conservatives nurse the paralyzing nightmare that the election of Barack Obama brought with it a profound change in public attitudes toward big government. For the last few months, major media outlets and the Democratic establishment have heralded just such a tectonic shift. In one typical headline, on the very day (April 15) that millions protested the expansion of federal power with coast-to-coast “tea parties,” USA TODAY ran the front page headline: “Most Americans OK with Big Government – for now.”
Nevertheless, closer examination of the poll that inspired that article, in addition to other recent surveys, suggests most of our fellow citizens remain more fearful than reassured at the prospect of growing government power and spending.
The USA TODAY/Gallup poll cited on April 15th asked respondents: “Do you think President Obama’s economic proposals call for too much government spending, the right amount or not enough?” A solid 55% (more than Obama’s percentage of the November vote) believe the President wants to spend “too much” as opposed to just 9% who feel he’s spending “not enough” – a crushing ration of six-to-one. Even when including the 33% who think the president seeks to appropriate “the right amount,” there’s still a clear majority for those who feel he’s over-spending against the combined total of those who like his spending levels and those who want taxpayers to cough up even more (55% to 42%).
Moreover, the same poll gave people the chance to sound-off on their attitude toward the current balance between governmental activism and private initiative. In answer to the question, “Is the government trying to do many things that should be left to individuals, or should the government do more to solve the country’s problems?” a clear margin emerged for those who believe the bureaucrats already attempt too much --- 50% to 42%.
A more recent Gallup Poll (released on April 20th) provided even more unmistakable evidence that big majorities still dread the rampaging expansion of government. The survey asked, “In your opinion, which of the following will be the biggest threat to the country in the future – big business, big labor, or big government?” A sold majority (55%) identified “big government” as their chief worry, while all the horrible publicity on Wall Street and its excesses pushed the terror of “big business” only to 32%. In fact, by taking the logical step of combining those who fear big government with those who fear big labor, that makes 65% -- or just under two-thirds---who see our future menaced by institutions (government bureaucracy and major unions) identified unequivocally as liberal.