Poll: Majority of Americans Say the Government Is Burdensome and Impedes Them

The latest Reason-Rupe poll finds that 54 percent of Americans think government, while necessary for certain functions, is generally burdensome and impedes them more than helps them. Conversely 41 percent view government as primarily a source of good and helping people improve their lives.

A majority of Democrats (54 percent) view government as primarily a source of helping people, while 40 percent generally view it as an obstacle. In contrast, majorities of Republicans (69 percent) and independents (57 percent) disagree, viewing government as primarily as burdensome making it more difficult for people to improve their lives. Twenty-six percent of Republicans and 39 percent of independents view government as primarily helpful.

As education rises, Americans become more optimistic in government’s ability to help people. For instance a majority (55 percent) of post-graduates agreed the government is a source of good, compared to 37 percent among those with high school degrees or less.

Most Caucasians (58 percent) view the government as burdensome and 37 percent view it as primarily helpful. Latinos and African-Americans are evenly divided, with slightly more Latinos viewing government as burdensome (50 percent) than helpful (46 percent).

Although majorities of young Americans agree there is more government should be doing, 53 percent view government as primarily burdensome and 43 percent view it as helpful. These numbers are similar to older Americans who feel government impedes people by a margin of 55 to 40 percent.

Government employees are also slightly more likely to view government favorably, with 51 percent who believe government is primarily helpful. However, 56 percent of private sector employees say government primarily impedes people from improving their lives.

Nationwide telephone poll conducted Dec 4-8 2013 interviewed 1011 adults on both mobile (506) and landline (505) phones, with a margin of error +/- 3.7%. Princeton Survey Research Associates International executed the nationwide Reason-Rupe survey. Columns may not add up to 100% due to rounding. Full poll results, detailed tables, and methodology found here. Sign up for notifications of new releases of the Reason-Rupe poll here.

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  • ||

    Government employees are also slightly more likely to view government favorably, with 51 percent who believe government is primarily helpful. However, 56 percent of private sector employees say government primarily impedes people from improving their lives.

    Wait, so are 49% of government employees effectively admitting that their jobs don't help people? Or is it "Well I know I help people, it's just those people upstairs or that department that's useless?"

  • sarcasmic||

    Oh they know they're useless. So useless that they know they could never get hired outside the public sector.

  • ||

    I'm pretty sure they know they're useless. Just interact with one. Or avoid that like the plague, like I do.

  • prolefeed||

    I worked for the Hawaii state government, which turned me into an anarchist. I'm surprised that the number who think government isn't helpful is as high as 49%, since even the handful of people in Hawaii's permanent minority party mostly thought the problem was that TEAM BLUE was running things, rather than having the epiphany that the whole mess was just a scheme to skim off our money and freedom.

  • Bo Cara Esq.||

    I think this entire 'government workers are useless' thing is itself not useful and what is more incorrect.

    It is not useful because as a political movement libertarians should not be about belittling significant chunks of the electorate. This is even more true when, as the poll indicates, nearly half of these people seem at least receptive to our core position that government is burdensome.

    I do not think it is correct either, at least to the point that I think one can generalize about so many people. People I know who go into government tended to choose that route the way most people who went into anything did. They knew someone, the opportunity came up, and it was acceptable in pay, benefits and location. People have to work somewhere. Criticizing people who happen to work for the government (directly or via contract) strikes me as similar to criticizing people for driving on their roads.

  • Bo Cara Esq.||

    Let me add that I can see why this occurs. For a libertarian, most of what current governments do is burdensome and unnecessary. So it is easy to move to the position that those doing these things are so. But I think it better, both politically and for accuracy, to say that it is these government functions which are useless, not the workers. In a more ideal world the functions and positions would be gone and the people would hopefully be doing something honest and useful.

  • prolefeed||

    More to the point: the people who worked for the roads department in the Hawaii state government were providing useful services. The issue is that the service was done by a monopoly agency that got its revenue by coercion, resulting in high prices and lesser quality than if done by competing private entities.

    They weren't parasites, they just were doing the job they likely would have been doing anyway in the absence of government.

  • Bo Cara Esq.||

    Well said.

    Just out of curiousity did you work during the Lingle administration or before that?

  • wareagle||

    So it is easy to move to the position that those doing these things are so.

    it becomes even easier when watching them in action. There is a reason the DMV has the reputation that it has earned, a reason why public schools are seen a massive clusterfuck, and a reason why no small number of cities are on the brink of bankruptcy.

    No doubt, there are some sharp individuals working in public administration much like there are morons in the private world. Difference is, the morons are not supported by my tax dollars and getting rid of them is not only possible, but desirable.

  • Bo Cara Esq.||

    See, I think it is the system that makes government agencies worse than the people in them. There is no profit motive to provide discipline, and there is the arrogance of coercive monopoly. I imagine a good chunk of the people who work there feel the rules they must follow are absurd.

  • wareagle||

    I don't doubt the systemic shortcomings but never do you hear of someone trying to change things, and how many of the presumably disgruntled ever leave?

    The bureaucracy is a bigger menace than the political class. You can at least vote out a politician; bureaucrats are for life and the longer they stay, the more of the Borg they become.

  • sarcasmic||

    My work takes me into the bowels of a federal agency from time to time. When a new bureaucracy head was rotated in, I asked one of the drones if she was worried that he may change things. She laughed out loud.

    In my visits there I noticed that the drones would greet each other with an odd salute, where they would flash a number of fingers, though it wasn't the same number. Finally I figured it out. Those were the short-timers, and the number of fingers was the number of years before they started collecting their pension.

    It's all normal self interest. They've got a good gig and they want to keep it. The part where they are paid with dollars obtained by coercion doesn't seem wrong to them, because their job is to coerce. It's coercion all the way down.

  • Slammer||

    Why can't all these polls be combined in one post? Reason Poll Roundup or something. Spacing them all out is irritating.

  • Ken Shultz||

    43% of reasonoids would rather all the polls were combined into one post.

  • UnCivilServant||

    I want a recount, the number has to be higher than that.

  • Ken Shultz||

    "Conversely 41 percent view government as primarily a source of good and helping people improve their lives."

    Answering surveys is cheap.

    How much of that 41% would pay income taxes if they weren't legally compelled to do so?

  • Paul.||

    Poll: Majority of Americans Say the Government Is Burdensome and Impedes Them

    By not giving them enough free stuff?

  • playa manhattan||

    This. I need some clarification. Just like the poll about "transparency".

  • Ken Shultz||

    I guess it matters what you think of when you think of the word "government". I tend to think of the president, the bureaucracy, the welfare state including Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, and especially income and capital gains taxes that are impeding me.

    If there are a lot of inner city people, though, who think the government is impeding them because they're not getting enough stuff, I suspect a lot of those same people are also thinking of the cops, the justice system, and their parole officers when they think of whether the government is impeding them.

  • Bo Cara Esq.||

    I would hope the language about 'impedes' notes burdens on negative rights alone, but of course that is likely silly to conclude of some people.

  • The Late P Brooks||

    Meaningless poll is meaningless.

  • PapayaSF||

    "However, a majority also said that the government is not doing nearly enough to burden and impede other people."

  • CE||

    Thread win.

  • PapayaSF||

    I thank you.

  • db||

    Poll: Majority of Americans Say the Government Is Burdensome and Impedes Them

    Well, yeah. For every majority that wants to prevent people from doing things (see the 60% in favor of 3D printed gun prohibition), there exists a mikority of people who see the government impeding them. Because these minorities are never composed of exactly the same people across each.minority interes, you end up with a near supermajority of people who feel they are impeded unfairly. Getting those folks to wake up to the reality that their own preference for prohibition has negative consequences for others in proportion to their own displeasure is the tough part.

  • wareagle||

    the pollapalooza is now making sense - the writing/reporting staff was so caught up in the big fund drive that no one actually produced any material. So, Emily goes to work to provide fodder for the commentariat.

GET REASON MAGAZINE

Get Reason's print or digital edition before it’s posted online

  • Progressive Puritans: From e-cigs to sex classifieds, the once transgressive left wants to criminalize fun.
  • Port Authoritarians: Chris Christie’s Bridgegate scandal
  • The Menace of Secret Government: Obama’s proposed intelligence reforms don’t safeguard civil liberties

SUBSCRIBE

advertisement