Big government's comeback: Record number of Americans think government should do more for people — not less

A new poll finds the highest support for government programs since 1995 — thank Trump and Bernie

By Matthew Rozsa
April 25, 2017 1:30AM (UTC)
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(Reuters/Scott Audette/AP/Susan Walsh/Getty/Andrew Harrer/Salon)

Just as newly-minted Democratic Party chairman Tom Perez travels the U.S. on a unity tour with Bernie Sanders to bluntly tell audiences that "Republican leadership doesn’t give a sh*t about people who are suffering," a new survey suggests that the American people may no longer accept the anti-government rhetoric frequently espoused by some conservatives who to seek justify their pro-suffering policies.

According to a recent poll by NBC News/Wall Street Journal, 57 percent of Americans believe the government should be doing more to address major problems and meet the needs of ordinary Americans. This is the highest percentage that supports a more active government since the poll first started asking that question in 1995, 22 years ago. Only 50 percent of Americans said they wanted a more active government when the same question was asked in 2015.


By contrast, only 39 percent of the people polled believed the government was encroaching on prerogatives that are ideally assumed by businesses or individuals.

The views of independents and Republicans on the role of government have drastically changed -- accounting for a significant portion of the recent overall shift towards an increased role for government. While only 17 percent of Republicans said the government should do more as of October 2010 (compared to 79 percent who said it was already doing too much) by 2017 the numbers had shifted by double-digit margins — with 28 percent now saying the government should do more and only 69 percent saying it currently does too much.

Meanwhile, while independents favored less government by 22 percentage points in 2010, they now favor more government by 22 percentage points.


Much of this shift may have been inspired by President Donald Trump, who made an ambitious infrastructure plan one of the cornerstones of his campaign and vowed to protect popular entitlement programs like Medicare and Social Security.

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Matthew Rozsa

Matthew Rozsa is a staff writer for Salon. He holds an MA in History from Rutgers University-Newark and is ABD in his PhD program in History at Lehigh University. His work has appeared in Mic, Quartz and MSNBC.

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