Big Government Big Threat: Gallup

Photograph by Joshua Roberts/Bloomberg

Members of the Park Service place barricades in front of the Lincoln Memorial due to a partial government shut down in Washington, D.C., on Oct. 1, 2013.

Here’s one of the explanations for some of the successes that Tea Party candidates have had in recent years:

Since President Barack Obama’s election, big government has taken a big leap in what Americans view as the biggest threat facing the country’s future — the view of 52 percent in 2009 and 72 percent today.

That said, big government has outpaced big business or big labor as threats to the nation’s future since the Gallup Poll started asking this question.

Yet big labor has all but fallen off the chart in the latest survey, a measure of the declining influence of labor unions nationally. And big business is perceived as the biggest threat by fewer than half the number of people who said so a decade ago.

And the perception of the threat posed by big government is at its peak in the nearly 50-year history of polling with this question.

The spike in concern about big government does track the economic stimulus that the president pushed in the wake of the worst recession since the Great Depression, and for that matter the introduction of “Obamacare.”

Yet the last time that concern peaked, the Clinton administration was closing its books with two years of budgetary surpluses and a dot.com business explosion. And that perceived threat dipped to its recent low in the early 2000s, when the last Bush administration started revving up deficit spending again with its wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

So there’s probably more than economics at work here.

The latest results come from a Dec. 5-8 poll, following a measure of 64 percent in November. “This suggests that government policies specific to the period, such as the Affordable Care Act — perhaps coupled with recent revelations of government spying tactics by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden — may be factors,” Gallup’s Jeffrey M. Jones writes.

“The historical high choosing big business, 38 percent, came in 2002, after a series of corporate scandals rocked major corporations including Enron and Tyco. Also at that time, Americans may have been less willing to choose government given the rally in support for government institutions and officials after the 9/11 terrorist attacks.”

“Americans were also more likely to view big business as a big threat during the recent recession, with more than three in 10 choosing it in 2008 and 2009, a time when many large corporations, including financial and automotive companies, failed or were in danger of failing without government intervention,” Jones writes. “But fewer Americans now view big business as a threat — the current 21% is the lowest Gallup has measured since 1983.”

Trend: Views of Biggest Threat to U.S. in Future

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