Rasmussen poll: the end of activist government?

posted at 10:55 am on June 21, 2010 by Ed Morrissey

In a certain sense, the latest Rasmussen poll should be subtitled, “Duh!”  Almost two-thirds believe that politicians want more money and power for government, and only slightly less believe government should have less instead of more.  However, while that seems like a platitude, the breadth of that belief in the electorate may be the story of the midterm elections:

When it comes to money and power, politicians want the government to have more of it, while voters want the government to have less. At least that’s what most Americans think.

The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that 62% of Adults nationwide say most politicians want more power and money for the government. Just 13% believe the opposite is true.

At the same time, 58% believe that most voters want the government to have less power and money. Only 22% believe most voters hold the opposite view and want a bigger role for government.

Only 22% want a more activist government?  If that surprises, perhaps it shouldn’t.  Over the last four years, a Democratic Congress has vastly escalated spending; in the past two, they have had a Democratic President that has allowed even more government expansion.  The bills have started to come due, and people are aghast at the debt that this kind of activist government creates.  They may have wanted government freebies, but it’s clear now that nothing comes for free.

What’s remarkable is how mainstream this has become.  Only 14% support the current status quo, and no demographic has more than 23% happy with the current balance of power and money between government and the private sector.

No one will be shocked to find that 66% of Republicans think government should have less power and money, although some may be shocked to see 24% of Republicans want government to have more money and power.  Independents are actually better than Republicans on the question, 61/15, although 15% support the status quo as opposed to 5% of Republicans.  Even Democrats have a plurality that thinks government has too much money and power now as opposed to too little, 48/27, with 21% supporting the status quo.  The youngest voters — those who provided the basis of enthusiasm for Obama and the Democrats in 2008 — now think that government has too much money and power, 47/35, with 19% supporting the status quo.

The bottom line from this poll is that the arc of liberalism has run into the ground.  The overwhelming consensus, across all age, income, ethnic, and even partisan backgrounds is that government has too much money and power.  Candidates have the best environment in perhaps a generation to argue for limited government, reduction in spending and services, and a return to fiscal sanity.

Update: The poll is worded oddly, as is noted in the comments.  It asks voters to say what they think other people believe.  However, most people tend to project their own views on the electorate as a whole, and it’s still telling that 48% of Democrats agree that Americans want government to have less money and power, while only 27% think the opposite.  Whichever way one looks at it, neither the status quo nor the idea that government needs more money and power are in the mainstream any longer.  The mainstream, as acknowledged by wide majorities, is for more limited government.


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its a cruel, cruel summer…

moonbatkiller on June 21, 2010 at 10:58 AM

No one’s shocked that “24% of Republicans want government to have more money and power.” Look at the clueless GOP in congress.

Eren on June 21, 2010 at 10:59 AM

The sad part is any person running for office will tell the voters what they think the voters want to hear to get elected. Send money and vote for me. It is really hard to tell if a person would keep their word when they get elected. We just have to ‘trust’ them I guess to tell the truth.
L

letget on June 21, 2010 at 11:00 AM

bananarama video added here.

moonbatkiller on June 21, 2010 at 11:00 AM

The story actually says “58% believe that most voters want the government to have less power and money.” That would mean those surveyed on what they believe the rest of the electorate feels, not necessarily their own personal view (e.g., I think this country is made up of wing nuts who want to starve children, even though I want full blown socialism). Unless the underlying poll is worded differently

m2 on June 21, 2010 at 11:01 AM

Even though the public agrees generally that govt has too much power/money, many polls show the public divided when it comes to reducing money/power in specific areas. Its like the packrat who realizes she needs to clean house, but when someone tries to help her go through and choose things she can’t find anything she is willing to get rid of.

Raisedbywolves on June 21, 2010 at 11:02 AM

You are misreading the poll Ed. It is an odd poll, I’ll give you that. They are not asking people what their view is. They are asking them what they believe other voters think. This would explain why the Republican response, and why it is lower than the independents.

Mark1971 on June 21, 2010 at 11:02 AM

Voters just have to educate themselves more than ever now…candidates are more & more running as conservative whether they are or not.

DCJeff on June 21, 2010 at 11:03 AM

Better channel more stimulus funds for Black Panther precinct “monitors” to buy more baseball bats.

TugboatPhil on June 21, 2010 at 11:04 AM

At the same time, 58% believe that most voters want the government to have less power and money

Where is the tipping point? How solid is that 58%? Will it crumble by November? By 2012?

And looking at the current government in light of the founding philosophy of this nation… how is this number not 65, 75, 90%?

mankai on June 21, 2010 at 11:04 AM

At the same time, 58% believe that most voters want the government to have less power and money. Only 22% believe most voters hold the opposite view and want a bigger role for government.

Yes, until the question becomes what to cut. If you do a poll about whether the “rich” should be taxed more, i would bet that 60% would say yes.

If you did a poll on what should be cut or de-regulated, you would be hard pressed to find a majority on any single entitlement or agency.

That’s the problem. Everyone wants smaller cheaper gov’t, just as long as their own entitlement or single-issue is not touched. That is why the dems always want to expand gov’t into every aspect of life. They know it is impossible to cut it back b/c once people are on the gov’t teet, it is difficult to pull them off.

Monkeytoe on June 21, 2010 at 11:06 AM

The rise of the independents (and the tea party philosophy) can be seen in the 24% of Republicans wanting the government to have more money and power.

Instead of the Party of No, we need the Party of Less — Less spending, less intrusion, less entitlements, less taxes, less lying, less regulation without cost/benefit analysis, less number fudging, and less aimless blather.

GnuBreed on June 21, 2010 at 11:07 AM

I believe it when I see it at the ballot box.

WashJeff on June 21, 2010 at 11:07 AM

The problem is that those who believe in an activist government have no competence beyond politics.

They don’t understand government or the limitations of it.

Only an ignorant, naive child could believe the federal government is capable of the scope of responsibilities it now assumes.

And that’s who we have in the White House and leading Congress, unfortunately.

NoDonkey on June 21, 2010 at 11:08 AM

The Crist-Rubio race belies this.

At the end of the day, if people were voting based primarily on a political philosophy of smaller, Constitutionally-bound, more efficient govement Rubio would be a shoe-in.

But too many people are ruled by personalities.

If people turn away from Ethridge, for example, because he grabbed some kid and not because he’s a big government O-vote, then we’re not winning the argument.

mankai on June 21, 2010 at 11:08 AM

80% understand small government = zooming economy.

Speakup on June 21, 2010 at 11:08 AM

The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that 62% of Adults nationwide say most politicians want more power and money for the government. Just 13% believe the opposite is true.

Who ARE these people?

donh525 on June 21, 2010 at 11:11 AM

Mark1971 on June 21, 2010 at 11:02 AM

Ditto. That is an important distinction that needs to be made.

Joe Caps on June 21, 2010 at 11:11 AM

Who ARE these people?

donh525 on June 21, 2010 at 11:11 AM

Government workers.

lorien1973 on June 21, 2010 at 11:12 AM

mankai on June 21, 2010 at 11:08 AM

Conservatism requires critical thinking. Liberalism does not.

Given a choice, people will opt not to think about things.

lorien1973 on June 21, 2010 at 11:13 AM

If Rasmussen is accurate on these points, then it won’t matter if lefty haters and pseudo-con elitists like Frum succeed in popularizing their portrayal of the Tea Partiers as racists and extremists. The fundamental argument of the Tea Partiers, that government is too big, too powerful, too corrupt and too expensive, is already won.

novaculus on June 21, 2010 at 11:14 AM

Where Bush left the US Sec. of the Treasury an autonomous Czar of the US economy, (Goldman Sachs) beholden to NO ONE, not Congress, not the POTUS, Obama enables further. No matter the rhetorical propaganda to diffuse public anxiety, the Washingtonians of both major parties will never relent their abuse of power.

As goes Britain, progressive American populists follow.

UK Prime Minister David Cameron adopted Phillip Bond’s idea of neo-communitarianism. In other words, neoconservatism is donning neocommunism. UK Militarizes Its Big Society

WEST STRUGGLES WITH NON-RECOVERY

The recent statement of Ben Bernanke, Fed chairman, to Congress reinforced the impression that a significant monetary tightening remains a long way off.
– Financial Times

The downside of this business cycle has been so extreme that the power-elite, which is used to handling these sorts of crises and milking maximum benefit from them, has been struggling mightily to keep even the pretense of a recovery going. … it is getting more difficult, not easier.

In America, the unemployment rate is staying stubbornly high despite an onslaught of “recovery” stories and a resurgent stock market. In Europe, confidence that a “soft-landing” would give way to a gradual recovery is in tatters as the sovereign debt crisis takes it toll. Country after country teeters on the brink of bankruptcy and talk of even modest progress has given way to bailout strategies and speculation over the fate of the euro and even the EU.

In China, the remaining prop of the worldwide economy, the yuan is to be unpegged, but this simply puts more pressure on the domestic Chinese consumer to purchase the baubles that China has made, with considerable disdain, for the outside world. The jury is yet out on whether China’s “miracle” can continue, or whether inflationary pressures and a lack of demand will finally to catch up to the biggest Asian tiger of them all.

It wasn’t supposed to happen this way, of course.

small comfort

maverick muse on June 21, 2010 at 11:15 AM

that government is too big, too powerful, too corrupt and too expensive, is already won.

novaculus on June 21, 2010 at 11:14 AM

It’s been won for 20 years, but the elected officials haven’t done anything to actually, you know, shrink government.

lorien1973 on June 21, 2010 at 11:15 AM

Depends upon who’s in govt.

OldEnglish on June 21, 2010 at 11:18 AM

As this poll and others have shown, Americans want less government, more of their money back and prior polls have majorities (not pluralities) willing to lose entitlements to do that.

A large-scale reduction of government can be pushed in a manner pleasing to all: you all get your entitlements cut, no exceptions, and everyone who pays taxes gets a massive tax cut. The poor, not liking that as they pay no taxes need to be included in a minimum tax as a token payment for the government of everyone, which can be pushed as ‘empowerment’ and ‘having a share’ of government. By giving everyone a stake in government and demonstrating the willingness to treat our dependence problems on entitlements as busting the budgets, a larger platform for smaller government is designed.

‘Moderation’ cannot get you anywhere as our government has become immoderate. Until that is addressed, those that cry out for moderation start to sound like Mr. Creosote pulling up to the table and deciding to moderate at the wafer-thin mint. I’ve had it with that sort of ‘moderate’ willing to digest the hard earned funds of the public for political cronies and pay-offs. It is time to shut down the all-you-can-eat buffet and put the government on a starvation diet. We can all benefit from that, rich and poor alike by trusting our fellow citizens to spend and invest wisely. Some won’t, so what? That is the nature of freedom and liberty.

We can no longer afford to be our brother’s keeper, plus our sisters’, aunts’, uncles’, mother’s, father’s and cousin George’s keeper, also. DIY directly and don’t complain of your lackluster ability to provide for those you care for and expect others to pick up the load… that doesn’t work and costs too much. Give me my money back and I will do far better per dollar on helping others than the federal government ever can.

ajacksonian on June 21, 2010 at 11:21 AM

Given a choice, people will opt not to think about things.

lorien1973 on June 21, 2010 at 11:13 AM

Hence the once great power of the nightly news.

donh525 on June 21, 2010 at 11:22 AM

Every dime the government spends has a constituency ready to scream bloody murder if their ox is threatened let alone gored. It’s all well and good to tell a pollster that government should shrink, but what do you cut? Reagan’s experience trying to eliminate the Bureau of Indian Affairs is instructive. I we can’t get rid of that old 19th Century artifact how will we ever dispose of the the Department of Education and the TSA?

potkas7 on June 21, 2010 at 11:24 AM

No president in history has taken us to rock bottom in such an undeniable manner as Obuma. He has made us a laughingstock on the world stage to the degree we may never recover. Like the Czech leader said recently, “the United States can overcome four years of a fool like Obama, but can they overcome the fools that elected him?” That remains to be seen.

volsense on June 21, 2010 at 11:25 AM

Just 13% believe the opposite is true.

Who ARE these people?
donh525 on June 21, 2010 at 11:11 AM

They got theirs, life invested in what they consider to be a safe government job.

As Michelle put it, “What does this do for MY kids.”

Most families are realizing that the tax funded well is drying, and all along, those Obama promises were nothing more than higher bills and higher taxes accompanying LOWER WAGES AND WORSE SERVICE.

Der Spiegel accumulated all recent German publication stories about Obama, now negative. At best, they wonder if Obama is the next Jimmy Carter. Stagflation.

maverick muse on June 21, 2010 at 11:25 AM

Or put another way, this is the David Frum Is Always Wrong Poll.

Beagle on June 21, 2010 at 11:27 AM

Depends upon who’s in govt.

OldEnglish on June 21, 2010 at 11:18 AM

That’s what they all say.

maverick muse on June 21, 2010 at 11:27 AM

I hope the unions don’t suffer, they deserve better.

Bishop on June 21, 2010 at 11:29 AM

It is time to shut down the all-you-can-eat buffet and put the government on a starvation diet.

Grow their own gardens and survive on their own sweat.

maverick muse on June 21, 2010 at 11:31 AM

Bishop on June 21, 2010 at 11:29 AM

/weeping and gnashing of teeth

maverick muse on June 21, 2010 at 11:32 AM

At the same time, 58% believe that most voters want the government to have less power and money. Only 22% believe most voters hold the opposite view and want a bigger role for government.

Actually, that doesn’t mean that “58% believe” that. Statistically, the people not expressing an opinion will tend to break along the same lines as those who do, just less strongly.

So it really only makes sense to talk about the proportion of those who express on opinion. In this case, that’s almost a three-to-one margin.

logis on June 21, 2010 at 11:35 AM

…can America overcome the fools that elected Obama?” That remains to be seen.

There was A LOT of discussion here during the last UNPRECEDENTED LENGTH potus primaries to fix the RNC primary potus process.

Everyone agreed that the timing should be drastically limited (from a single national primary voting day to a few weeks to supposedly spread the wealth of campaign visits to states with hardly any electoral college votes) so as to allow all voters their real choice on the Republican ballot, rather than what’s left by the time their state votes.

Meanwhile, Obama won and the RNC hates the Tea Party revolt against neoconservative RINO domination.

maverick muse on June 21, 2010 at 11:39 AM

I don’t buy it when people tell pollsters they want less government. What they really mean is they don’t approve of the current politicians in charge of government, or they don’t approve of the current priorities of government.

For the most part, Republicans and conservatives approve of an activist government when it comes to fighting wars and law enforcement. Lefties approve of activist government for…well, everything else. My sense is that there are very few people who truly believe in rolling back government power. That’s why Sharron Angle’s purported belief that the Department of Education should be eliminated is treated as kooky, when in fact it’s absolutely sensible.

Enrique on June 21, 2010 at 11:42 AM

Update: The poll is worded oddly, as is noted in the comments. It asks voters to say what they think other people believe. However, most people tend to project their own views on the electorate as a whole, and it’s still telling that 48% of Democrats agree that Americans want government to have less money and power, while only 27% think the opposite. Whichever way one looks at it, neither the status quo nor the idea that government needs more money and power are in the mainstream any longer. The mainstream, as acknowledged by wide majorities, is for more limited government.

Maybe yes and maybe no. Think of polls that ask people how well they are doing financially. Often times people will say they are doing fine while they believe the rest of the nation is doing badly. The same dynamic could be at work here. Many liberals may want larger government but may believe a majority of Americans do not. If this poll is really asking what people think other people are thinking I would consider it somewhat unreliable in trying to determine what people are actually thinking.

NotCoach on June 21, 2010 at 11:42 AM

If the wording of this poll fooled Ed Morrissey, it’s easy to assume that polls can be and are written to fool people.

fossten on June 21, 2010 at 11:44 AM

Only 22% want a more activist government?

Surprise, surprise the number of people who self identify as progressives is about 22%.

chemman on June 21, 2010 at 11:52 AM

People like less govt in theory. But they always vote for more government.

It’s like the “THROW THE BUMS OUT” sentiment we hear aboout every election…well except my bum of course, he’s different. Throw all the other bums out.

Cut govt spending, except the govt spending that benefits me, that’s different and should not be touched. Cut all the other spending.

And so every election 90%+ of the bums get re-elected and spending always increases.

angryed on June 21, 2010 at 11:54 AM

Seems like a good issue to run on in Nov., but will women and children be hardest hit? Bawney already told us that a tax cut never fed a hungry child, whatever that means.

Kissmygrits on June 21, 2010 at 11:59 AM

Yeah, someone has to pay for it, ME. To the tune of $500 less in each month’s paycheck in the academic year. Someone always has to pick up the tab for that free lunch, baby.

But that doesn’t matter to all the Pauls in the world–as long as we keep robbing Peter of his honestly-earned wage to raise Paul’s standard of living, Paul’s going to keep voting for democrats. And the number of Peters will get smaller and smaller.

Bob's Kid on June 21, 2010 at 12:01 PM

At the same time, 58% believe that most voters want the government to have less power and money.

This poll just gages perception. Most people perceive an anti-govt mood, or perhaps one might say an anti-unconstitutional govt mood, if I may be so hopeful. I just wonder if the results would have been the same had they asked, “What do you think…?”

Akzed on June 21, 2010 at 12:09 PM

24% RINO squishes!

Ogabe on June 21, 2010 at 12:17 PM

Money savings ahead ???

Planned Parenthood Federation of America’s (PPFA) audits show the organization spent just $657.1 million between 2002 and 2008 from federal government grants and programs, but the abortion behemoth’s own annual reports show that it took in $2.3 billion from government grants and programs during the same time period.

Even the GAO doesn’t seem to know where the remainder of the money went just yet.

J_Crater on June 21, 2010 at 12:22 PM

At the same time, 58% believe that most voters want the government to have less power and money. Only 22% believe most voters hold the opposite view and want a bigger role for government.

And the other 20 percent are what? Clueless idiots?

rollthedice on June 21, 2010 at 12:24 PM

My Take: 24% of Republicans are RINOs. A large portion of Independents are Conservatives who no longer feel at home with the Big Tent of RINOs in the Republican Party. VIOLA! Enter the Tea Party Activist who makes it CLEAR they have no devotion or connection with the mainstream functions or Committees running the RNC.

Sultry Beauty on June 21, 2010 at 12:24 PM

Just a little O/T Former Clinton Deputy Attorney General Jamie Gorelick has joined BP as legal counsel. Many would remember her for stovepipping intelligence during the Clinton Years and her conflict of interest sitting on the 911 commission. She made millions from Fannie Mae and got out before the meltdown…she’s back. Look Who Is Back On The Pipe.

Nicknamed the Mistress of Disaster because of her culpability in both 9/11 and Fannie Mae. I can see why BP would want to hire someone with disaster experience.

Dr Evil on June 21, 2010 at 12:27 PM

Hate to bust the meme that Democrats think the country wants less government, but they actually think Americans want even more government. From the write-up:

By a 46% to 19% margin, Democrats believe politicians want more power. By a 48% to 27% margin, Democrats believe most voters want the government to have more power and money.

steveegg on June 21, 2010 at 1:22 PM

Update: The poll is worded oddly, as is noted in the comments. It asks voters to say what they think other people believe.

These kinds of questions are absurd. Why would you only ask people what they thought other people think? It would be one thing if they asked about that in addition to asking you what you think. But the way the question is worded now, its almost useless, since you can’t know how many people are answering for themselves, and how many are speculating on other peoples’ views.

That might explain why you only have 66% of republicans answering “less government”. A lot of the ones who said “more” probably answered that way because the way the electorate has voted in recent years, you would have to wonder if people really do want less government, in spite of what they say.

I personally think that while most people understand that less government is good, a lot of them sometimes forget about that principle when it comes to whatever specific goodie their congressman promises them. It never feels like the government is too big when its forking something over to you – its only when the total bill comes in. This explains why they keep voting in the big spenders, in spite of wanting the government smaller.

RINO in Name Only on June 21, 2010 at 1:24 PM

Young people are used to having a free internet. Keeping it free is going to be more important to this voting block than any social issues. The democrats are going to lose them if they continue to try and take control of it.

Rose on June 21, 2010 at 1:26 PM

The founding fathers cry and twitch in their graves, looking at how imperial our “government for and of the people” has become.

Send them all home, from the left to the right.

The two dummy candidates, in a good sense, from Carolina and Texas appear to be better than all the elitist devils in Wash. May they suffer of something slow and painful for being such blatant hypocrits, paid for by our hard labor.

The ambition in their eyes – just look at the harlot Blanche Lincoln, Specter and all other…the very fact that they don’t ever want to leave, even when incontinent…is a sure sign that something is terribly wrong in our system.

Schadenfreude on June 21, 2010 at 4:21 PM

But it’s here, with the looming fiscal crisis, that the more legitimate liberal fear comes in. Liberals had hoped that Obama’s election marked the beginning of a long progressive era — a new New Deal, a greater Great Society. Instead, from the West Coast to Western Europe, the welfare state is in crisis everywhere they look. The future suddenly seems to belong to austerity and retrenchment — and even, perhaps, to conservatism.

In this environment, the rage against Obama for not doing more, now, faster, becomes at least somewhat understandable. It’s not that he hasn’t done a great deal for liberals during his 18 months in office. It’s that liberalism itself may be running out of time.

Schadenfreude on June 21, 2010 at 4:45 PM

Only 58%?

J.E. Dyer on June 21, 2010 at 6:50 PM

Only poll that matters comes in November!

chickasaw42 on June 21, 2010 at 7:21 PM