To no one’s great shock, the nation has reacted to the radical nature of the Democratic agenda by expressing even more suspicion of big-government solutions. Gallup polled adults, not registered or likely voters, and found a sharp increase in belief that government overregulates and tries to assume too much power, usually a result seen more among likely voters. In fact, the last time such sharp reactions got measured, Democrats lost control of Congress:
Americans are more likely today than in the recent past to believe that government is taking on too much responsibility for solving the nation’s problems and is over-regulating business. New Gallup data show that 57% of Americans say the government is trying to do too many things that should be left to businesses and individuals, and 45% say there is too much government regulation of business. Both reflect the highest such readings in more than a decade. …
These two measures are based on questions Gallup has asked each September since 2001, and intermittently before that. The 57% level of public concern about big government in this survey is, among other things, coincident with an extensively increased government involvement in the economy, and the extensive focus on a large-scale government effort to reform healthcare that was underway as this survey was being conducted.
The chart shows the sudden jump upward in opposition to heavier regulation:
Interestingly, the peak of the “right amount” sentiment came in 2005, when the economy was sailing well. Despite what the White House and the Democrats think, the notion that government regulates too little has never been popular with the American people, not even in the most liberal sampling method available. At its best, it hit parity with “too much” and “just right” in 2002, after the economic crisis touched off by the 9/11 attacks. It now trails “too much” by almost 2-1.
Why, then, has the Obama administration and the Democratic Congress insisted on following a regulatory path? They appear to have fundamentally misunderstood both their mandate and the historical reasons they came to power. Even in 2006, Americans did not elect Democrats because they yearned for more regulation and government intervention in their lives. “Just right” dropped 10 points in 2006, while “too much” rose to 36% to lead all other options. The country elected Democrats because of the failures of Republicans to act ethically and responsibly, not to put Nancy Pelosi in charge of the agenda. Obama got elected because of widespread discontent with the Bush administration and the failure to select a candidate who represented enough change from it.
In misunderstanding these reasons, Democrats run the risk of squandering their opportunity to lead. Independents now have a majority that say government overregulates, up 12 points since last year. In another question, 57% believe that government is now trying to do too much, up from below a majority earlier in the year, while those who say government should do more has dropped to 38%. Those numbers are actually worse among independents, 63%-33%, the Democrats’ key demographic to their 2006 and 2008 victories.
Those two elections gave Democrats an opportunity to show they could lead an essentially center-right nation on a path towards fiscal responsibility and careful use of government power. Instead, they took it to mean that the electorate wanted them to go on an even bigger spending spree than the Republicans did, with more government intervention and more infringement on personal choices than ever before. They’re on a high-speed rail trip to electoral disaster, and the only question now is whether Republicans can derail these increasing unpopular agenda items before they become law and before they have a chance to take back control of Congress.