- 54% want government to do more; 41% think it is doing too much
- Americans divided on whether government should promote traditional values
- 32% plurality want government to do more but not promote values
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- For the first time in Gallup's 28-year trend, a majority of Americans think the government should do more to solve the nation's problems. As the U.S. continues to struggle with the coronavirus pandemic, the resulting economic downturn, and racial injustice issues, 54% of U.S. adults favor increased government intervention, while 41% think the government is doing too much that should be left to individuals and businesses.
The public's desire for more government has increased seven percentage points since last year. This is one of the few times that government intervention has been favored over a more hands-off approach. The other instances have generally been when the U.S. has been facing a national challenge, including shortly after the 9/11 terrorist attacks and in 1992 and 1993 amid high unemployment in the wake of an economic recession.
Line graph. Americans' views of whether the government should do more to solve national problems or it is trying to do too many things that should be left to individuals and businesses since 1992. The current 54% who say it should do more is the highest on record. 41% now say government is doing too much.
The latest findings, from Gallup's Aug. 31-Sept. 13 annual Governance poll, are sharply politically polarized with more Democrats (83%) and independents (56%) than ever before favoring government intervention compared with far fewer Republicans (22%).
Democrats and independents both show double-digit gains in favoring a more active government role from last year, while Republicans' views are unchanged. This is the first time that independents have reached majority-level preference for more government since 2001.
Line graph. Partisans' views on whether the government should do more to solve national problems since 2001. The current 83% of Democrats and 56% of independents who say government should do more is the highest on record for each group.
The latest 61-point gap between Democrats and Republicans is the highest on record, although it is similar to differences of 60 points in 2016 and 58 points in 2011. Throughout Barack Obama's presidency, Republicans were less inclined than they are now to call for government intervention; at that time, the measure ranged from 8% to 17%. They have been slightly more likely to favor an active government under Republican administrations.
Americans Remain Divided on Promoting Values
Although the public's desire for more government involvement in solving problems has risen, support for another measure, government's promotion of traditional values, remains steady. Roughly equal percentages favor the government promoting traditional values (47%) and not promoting any set of values (50%). This trendline has been relatively stable since 2004. Before then, Americans showed a clear preference for the government to promote traditional values.
Line graph. Americans' preference for whether the government should promote traditional values or not promote any particular set of values. The public remains about evenly divided in their views, with 50% saying it shouldn't promote any values and 47% calling for the promotion of traditional values.
Over the past two decades, partisans' views have been sharply divided, with broad majorities of Republicans wanting government to promote traditional values and majorities of Democrats not wanting government involvement in promoting any values. Independents' views have been more changeable. Currently, 74% of Republicans, 29% of Democrats and 42% of independents favor the government promoting traditional values.
Democrats are significantly less likely now than in the early 2000s to say government should promote traditional values; the current 29% ties the low point among Democrats and is significantly lower than the 44% high in 2001 and 2003.
Line graph. Partisans' preferences for whether the government should promote traditional values since 2001. Seventy-four percent of Republicans, 42% of independents and 29% of Democrats say the government should promote traditional values.
Americans Shift Left on Desire for Government's Role
An analysis of the combined data assessing Americans' desired roles of government in the economic and morality spheres shows a shift toward the ideological position favored by the ideological left in the U.S. That is, since last year, there has been a six-point increase in the percentage of Americans who want the government to do more to solve the country's problems but, at the same time, do not want the government to promote any values. The 32% of U.S. adults holding these views is the highest on record since 1993.
Meanwhile, a relatively steady one-quarter of Americans hold the most conservative position -- saying government is doing too much to solve problems better left to individuals and businesses coupled with a desire for government to promote traditional values.
Those who favor government intervention both in solving the nation's problems and promoting traditional values also remained steady at 21% compared to last year. At the same time, the percentage of those who think the government is doing too much to solve problems and should not promote any values has decreased from 21% to 15%.
|Want gov't to do more to solve country's problems
but not promote any values
|Want gov't to do more to solve the country's problems
and to promote traditional values
|Think gov't is doing too much to solve problems
and should not promote any values
|Think gov't is doing too much to solve problems
but want it to promote traditional values
|GALLUP, Aug. 31-Sep. 13, 2020|
As has been the case in previous national crises, such as the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the ongoing tribulations brought on by the coronavirus pandemic in the U.S. have seemingly resulted in the public's desire for an increase in government action. Indeed, Gallup's COVID-19 polling has found that governors are more highly rated than Donald Trump for their response to the pandemic. Governors are more broadly seen as better than the president in communicating a clear plan of action to deal with the situation, and they are also viewed as better able to handle any emerging health challenges. During this uncertain time, the public seems to want such interventions from their government.
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