Americans’ confidence in all three branches of government is at or near record lows. That’s according to the 2014 General Social Survey from the independent research organization NORC at the University of Chicago. They found only 23 percent of Americans have a great deal of confidence in the Supreme Court, 11 percent in the executive branch and 5 percent in Congress.
Given the other poll numbers we’ve seen in recent years, these statistics are not surprising. But what might surprise you is another finding of the study—Americans want more government spending:
More Americans support increases in spending rather than decreases for 18 of the 22 issues asked on the GSS, with the exceptions being space, aid to cities, welfare, and foreign aid.
This has long been the case even though most say their own taxes are too high. For example, in 2014, 57 percent said their own federal income tax was too high, 39 percent said about right, and 2 percent said too low.
For the 18th year in a row, the top spending priority was education. Seventy percent of Americans say the country spends too little on education, 22 percent say about the right amount, and 6 percent report too much. The other top spending priorities are assistance to the poor, halting the crime rate, improving and protecting the environment, and Social Security.
This “tax less, spend more” dynamic is prevalent in America. It stems in large part from the narrative that there is widespread waste in government, and that if we eliminate the waste we can tax less and still have enough revenue to fund important programs. It’s a narrative that undermines many of our efforts, which is why it’s important that we push against it with information about the many things government does right.