Americans Split Pretty Evenly on Proper Role of Government



The latest poll from Gallup Politics looks at how Americans view the proper role of govenment. Though it might come as a surprise to anyone watching U.S. politics, about an equal number claim to prefer a government that provides "only the most basic" functions as favor a government that "takes active steps in every area it can to try and improve the lives of its citizens." 

For the poll, conducted earlier this month, respondents were asked to rate themselves on a 5-point scale with "1" corresponding to the limited-government perspective and "5" signalling support for an activist government. About 35 percent rated themselves as "1" or "2", meaning they would prefer government play a minimal role in the lives of citizens. Slightly less (32 percent) chose "4" or "5", indicating a preference to turn over control of their lives to the state. The remaining third of respondents favored a middle ground. This is the fourth time Gallup has asked this particular polling question (starting in 2010) and all four polls have featured a relatively even split. 

Unsurprisingly, Democrats were more likely to favor ample government than Republicans—though there was plenty of partisan crossover. About 17 percent of Republican respondents slotted themselves in the pro-big government camp, and 10 percent of Democrats said they support a more limited government. Meanwhile about a quarter of Republicans and 38 percent of Democrats rated themselves in the middle of the government-scope scale. 


Gallup also asked respondents whether they thought government was currently doing too much or not enough. More than half (54 percent) said it's "trying to do too many things that should be left to individuals and businesses" while 41 percent said the government needs to "do more to solve our country's problems."

Of limited-government fans from question one, 86 percent think the government is currently too hands-on, with those neutral on question one also tending to lean this way. However, when it comes to big-government supporters, a terrifying 74 percent thinks government isn't active enough in our lives right now and should be doing more.