Americans divided on active government

Americans dividedDespite our often volatile political situation, Americans are remarkably consistent and evenly divided, according to Gallup, on whether they prefer an active or less active federal government.

Gallup has asked this question four times since 2010, and each time, Americans have divided themselves roughly into thirds favoring a more active government, a less active government, or something in between. This division is especially noteworthy because the government’s role in solving the nation’s problems has been arguably more salient in recent years during the housing crisis, financial crisis, economic recession, and passage of the Affordable Care Act.

Another interesting conclusion drawn by Gallup is that Americans’ views on whether government is currently too active or passive is influenced by whether their preferred political party is in power at the time.

Gallup has asked this question since 1992, including during four different presidential administrations—two Republican and two Democratic. Americans’ opinions appear to be influenced by which party is in the White House, and whether the president prefers a more active or a less active government. During the two Republican administrations, an average of 49% of Americans said the government was doing too much, compared with 55% during the two Democratic administrations.

Americans’ preferences for government activity are highly related to their opinions of whether the government is currently doing too much. Those who prefer a limited government role on the 5-point scale overwhelmingly say the government is doing too much now (86%). At the same time, most of those who prefer an active government, 74%, say the government should be doing more right now. Those without a clear preference on this matter tilt in the direction of saying the government is currently doing too much.

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