A Gallup poll has determined that 72% of Americans see big government as the greatest threat to the United States, a record high for the nearly fifty year old question.
Big government is seen as a much bigger threat than big business and big labor, which are at 21% and 5%. Republicans are most likely to hold this point of view, although more than half of democrats take this position as well.
With Congress and the President only working to make government even bigger, it's easy to see that our government is not on our side.
The latest update comes from a Dec. 5-8 poll. Gallup has documented a steady increase in concern about big government since 2009, rising from 55% in March 2009 to 64% in November 2011 and 72% today. 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.
Currently, 21% name big business as the greatest threat, while 5%, a record low, say big labor. The high point for big labor was 29% in 1965. No more than 11% of Americans have chosen big labor since 1995, clearly reflecting the decline of the labor movement in the United States in recent decades.
The historical high choosing big business, 38%, 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. But fewer Americans now view big business as a threat — the current 21% is the lowest Gallup has measured since 1983.
Republicans Especially Likely to See Big Government as Threat
Even though Americans have always viewed big government as the greatest threat, the degree to which they do so has varied. In recent decades, since the start of the Clinton administration, perceptions of big government as a threat have varied depending on the party of the president. Since Barack Obama took office in 2009, an average of 64% of Americans have named big government as the greatest threat. That is up from an average 56% during George W. Bush's administration from 2001-2008, but similar to the 65% average from 1993-2000 during the Clinton administration.
This pattern is largely driven by Republicans, who generally are more likely to be concerned about the size and power of government, and this concern is amplified when a Democrat is president. Democrats are more likely to see government as a threat when a Republican is in office; however, they tend to see government as less threatening than Republicans do, and their concern about big government topped out at 62% in 2005 under Bush.