Americans split over role of gov't in their lives: Gallup

Updated: 2014-09-30 14:16


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WASHINGTON - Americans remain divided over the role of government, with 35 percent preferring a less active role for government and 32 percent favoring a more active one, according to a Gallup poll released Monday.

Gallup has asked whether the government should take a less or more active roll 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 credit crunch, financial crisis, economic recession, and passage of the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare - a landmark but controversial healthcare overhaul that US President Barack Obama pushed through Congress.

Consistent with their respective parties' platforms, a majority of Democrats favor a more active government, while a majority of Republicans favor a more limited one. Party supporters, however, are not entirely consistent with the approach to governing that the elected leaders from their party usually take.

Substantial percentages of each party's supporters - 38 percent of Democrats and 26 percent of Republicans - place themselves in the middle. And one in six Republicans say they favor a more active government, while one in 10 Democrats favor a less active one, Gallup found.

When asked in a separate question about the government's current activity level, 54 percent of Americans say the government is "trying to do too many things that should be left to individuals and businesses." Meanwhile, 41 percent say the government should "do more to solve our country's problems," Gallup said.

The divided preferences on government activity do not give elected leaders clear direction in deciding whether to rely on government or non-government solutions to the nation's biggest problems. To some degree this may help explain why the president and Congress have had difficulty in addressing some of the major issues facing the country in recent years, Gallup found.

The results of the study were released just weeks before the mid-term Congressional elections and at a time when Republicans and conservatives especially blast the current administration for what critics call government overreach.