Surprisingly, in the year of Obamacare, NSA snooping, and skyrocketing federal debt, Americans express little confidence in government and consider it largely incapable of addressing the problems and issues facing the country. OK, that's not surprising at all—actually, it's a predictable result of polling in a year when goverment officials seem to have set out to demonstrate just how untrustworthy and incompetent they can be when given half a chance. Other recent polls have found that Americans consider government to be both burdensome and dangerous, so these latest AP-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research numbers continue a trend in disillusioned, yet realistic, assessments of the coercive institutions of the state.
According to The People's Agenda: America's Priorities and Outlook for 2014, 70 percent of respondents have little or no confidence "in the ability of the FEDERAL government to make progress on the important problems and issues facing the country." Fifty-three percent express similarly low esteem in the abilities of state governments, though local government inspires moderate confidence.
What those important issues are ranges far and wide, though Obamacare, unemployment, the economy, and government spending all raise concern. So do immigration and education, though at lesser levels. But, when asked, issue by issue, about government's competence to get things right, Americans give an almost unbroken string of thumbs-down.
Not surprisingly, an overwhelming majority of those polled say the democratic system in this country needs changes.
What kind of changes? With all of that skepticism toward government ability to "fix" things, it's no surprise that people express a taste—although slight—for less government in their lives. Interestingly, poll respondents also have a preference for "strong government" over the free market. Quite possibly, given the skepticism toward government expressed throughout the poll, this split decision represents the difference between what many Americans wish they could have (if government wasn't an incompetent mess run by creeps and dipshits) and the reality of what they're getting.
Last month, a record 72 percent of respondents (and rising) to a Gallup poll said big government would be the biggest threat to the country in the future. A majority (54 percent) of Americans polled by Reason-Rupe say government is generally burdensome and impedes them more than it helps them.
Whatever Americans might want of the state in an ideal world, they're not impressed by what it can actually deliver. Actually, they're horrified.