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As Fear Recedes, Americans’ Opposition to Expanding Government Rises

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Twice this century, a greater number of Americans, when asked a yearly Gallup survey question, said their opinion aligns more with the view that government “should do more to solve problems” than with the view that government is “trying to do too many things.” The first time was in 2001, shortly after the September 11, 2001 attacks. The second time was in 2020, in the midst of the coronavirus scare. Fear, pumped up incessantly by people in government, media, and beyond, at these two time periods helped lead to a big shift in the poll answers. Every other year, polled people’s opinions came out with a plurality or majority aligned with the view that the government does too much.

It is good to see the poll’s indication that people have regained their inclination in favor of restraining government instead or expanding it. Overall, 52 percent of people polled in September said the government does too much compared with 43 percent who said it should do more. Last year those numbers were just about reversed: Only 41 percent said the government should do less, while 54 percent said it should do more.

It is also good to see that among Republicans, Democrats, and independents alike there was over the last year a gain in the percent of people who said government should do less and a decrease in the percent of people who said government should do more. These changes were much larger among people who identified as independents than among people who claimed a party affiliation. Indeed, independents are the one group for whom the majority view flipped from 2020 to 2021, with the expanding government view winning out 56 to 38 percent last year and the restricting government view winning out 57 percent to 38 percent this year. It is likely more than coincidence that that huge shift in opinion has coincided with the termination of major coronavirus crackdown mandates over the last year in some parts of America.

Gallup’s September poll results also suggest there is reason for hope that many people who have recently seen the light about the danger of accepting government power grabs will oppose efforts to expand government’s coercive reach in the name of countering future drummed up crises.

Looking at the partisan breakdown of answers to the question, though, suggests that people in parts of America where many more people see themselves as Democrats may be in for much yet expansion of government power. Among Republicans answering the poll question in September, the government should do less answer was chosen by 80 percent, while just 15 percent chose the alternative. Among independents, the reducing government view was chosen by a narrower, though still large, margin of 57 percent to 38 percent. In contrast, among Democrats the government should do more answer was the runaway winner at 78 percent to 18 percent.

People in more heavily Democratic areas have tended to be subjected to, and tend to continue to endure, more government mandates in the name of countering coronavirus than people elsewhere in America. The good news for people in these areas is that even among Democrats the support for expanding government’s reach has waned. The bad news is that, as indicated in the September Gallup poll, supporting government doing more remains the opinion of most Democrats.

Also, with Democrats in control of the United States Congress and presidency, expect the march of coronavirus tyranny to continue at the national level. A big question is how strongly and effectively politicians from areas with greater concentration of Republican and independent voters will act to counter this threat from DC.

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