Americans’ Paradoxical Opinions about Government

A new poll from the Pew Research Center illustrates one of the paradoxes of today’s America—we think government is run poorly, and we want government to do more.Opinions about government

Only 19% of those surveyed trust the government always or most of the time, and only 20% say government programs are well-run. However, a majority of both Republicans and Democrats say the government should play a major role in protecting the environment, ensuring safe food and medicine, maintaining infrastructure, ensuring access to quality education, and setting workplace standards.

At a general level, the public finds the government frustrating and badly managed. Just 20% say the federal government runs its programs well, and 59% say it is in need of “very major reform,” up 22 percentage points since 1997.

These assessments stand in contrast with the public’s more mixed views of government performance at a specific level. In 10 of 13 areas included in the survey, the balance of opinion about government performance is more positive than negative.

In several areas, Democrats and Republicans give the federal government similar ratings: Large majorities of both Democrats and Republicans say it does a good job of responding to natural disasters (82% and 78%, respectively) and setting fair and safe standards for workplaces (79% and 77%, respectively).

Roughly half in each party say the federal government does well in maintaining roads, bridges and other infrastructure (52% of Democrats, 50% Republicans) and ensuring access to high-quality education (54% of Republicans, 52% of Democrats).

The government scored low with people from both parties when it comes to helping people out of poverty (42% of Democrats and 30% of Republicans gave positive ratings). However, only 36% of Republicans believe the government should even play a major role in fighting poverty, compared to 72% of Democrats.

One response to “Americans’ Paradoxical Opinions about Government”

  1. Fernando Centeno says:

    There is a huge material difference between opinion (the general public) and informed opinion (practitioners) when it comes to commentary re: tackling poverty.

    Regrettably, public officials respond to these questions but they have NO real experience or knowledge about many issues, which gives a great distortion about the reality of current issues & challenges.

    So what is gained by asking the general public for an opinion (which sometimes is necessary) when you can get better insights from practitioners? I, for one, do not care for opinions from the general public or politicians when it comes to economic public policy questions, as they are not in our wheelhouse.

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