It was 35 years ago when Ronald Reagan said at a press conference, “The most terrifying words in the English language are: I’m from the government and I’m here to help.” And for most of the last three decades, a majority of Americans agreed with the Gipper. Last year marked only the second time in Gallup’s 29-year trend that at least half of Americans endorsed a more active role for government. The only other time was in the weeks after the 9/11 attacks.
“Americans have shifted back to favoring a more hands-off approach for government in addressing the nation’s problems after a rare endorsement of a more active role last year,” stated Gallup about its most recent survey. Currently, 52 percent say the government is doing too many things that should be left to individuals and businesses, while 43 percent want the government to do more to solve the country’s problems. In contrast, last year during the height of the pandemic, a record-high 54 percent of U.S. adults said the government should do more to solve problems.
What’s especially interesting is that all political party groups are less likely now than a year ago to favor a more active government. Independents’ opinions changed the most – by 18-percentage points. In 2020, 56 percent of independents wanted the government to do more to solve problems, compared with just 38 percent in the most recent survey. Even more Democrats (18 percent now compared to 13 percent in 2020), believe that government is “trying to do too many things.” Republicans’ opinions were the least changed.
Progressive politicians who took advantage of the pandemic to push for more government control should wise up to these polls. When government claims it can fix everything then fails, it inevitably gets the blame. A list of the country’s problems, such as rising inflation, high unemployment combined with worker shortages, soaring gas prices, unaffordable housing, and pandemic lockdowns and mandates, can all trace their roots to government activism.
The growing backlash against big government is taking place all over the country. Parents are pushing back against political indoctrination in the public schools; workers are protesting government mandated vaccinations; small business owners are quietly ignoring COVID restrictions; consumers are saying no to the IRS prying into their bank accounts as proposed in Biden’s $3.5 trillion social spending bill.
Even in blue state California, we’ve seen examples of residents rising up – East Bay parents protesting mask mandates; church goers defying Gov. Newsom’s restrictions to gather; and the Los Angeles Sheriff himself, Alex Villanueva, announcing that he won’t be forcing his 18,000 employees to be vaccinated despite the LA County mandate.
Ronald Reagan also said that the “The best view of big government is in the rear-view mirror as we leave it behind.” Clearly, many Americans have taken charge and are moving on.
Rowena Itchon is senior vice president of the Pacific Research Institute.