A recent Gallup poll shows that a record level of Americans believe that the government is too powerful. In total, 6 in 10 Americans say that is the case, while just 7% say the government has “too little” power. At least half of Americans since 2005 have said the government has too much power, with the latest number reflecting a 1-point increase since the previous high measured last year.
The 7% of Americans who feel the government has “too little” power has been relatively steady since Gallup started tracking the measure regularly in 2002. Nearly one-third – 32% – say that government’s power is “about the right amount,” which unlike the steady 7%, represents a drop of 8% measured toward the end of 2012. Predictably, there is a clear partisan divide.
Republicans, by 81%, are now more likely than at any time since 2002 to say the government has too much power. Even Democrats, who now are more likely to say this than at any time since President Barack Obama took office in 2009, with 38% agreeing with Republicans.
Republicans, Democrats, and independents have all become more likely to say government is too powerful this year. Republicans’ and Democrats’ views, however, have become more polarized since Obama took office. In 2002, the two parties were roughly equal in their likelihood to view the federal government as too powerful, at 36% and 35%, respectively. Independents were most likely to say so, with 45%.
In the second term of George W. Bush, both Republicans and Democrats began to report higher levels of unease with the amount of power the federal government held. From 2004 and 2007, the difference between the parties ranged from 7% to 17%, with Democrats more likely than Republicans to say the government had too much power.
During the 2008 presidential race, about half of Republicans and Democrats held this view. By September 2009, however, views became much more polarized: 25% of Democrats were concerned with the government’s power, compared with 78% of Republicans. Since that low point, Democrats have become more likely to view the government as too powerful, with 38% this year saying so — for a gap of 43 points between the parties.