Andrew Kohut, the president of Pew Research, confirms the trend that’s been developing since the 2008 election:
A desire for smaller government is particularly evident since Barack Obama took office. In four surveys over the past year, about half have consistently said they would rather have a smaller government with fewer services, while about 40% have consistently preferred a bigger government providing more services. In October 2008, shortly before the presidential election, the public was evenly split on this question.
The public is now divided over whether it is a good idea for the government to exert more control over the economy than it has in recent years. Just 40% say this is a good idea, while a 51% majority says it is not. Last March, by 54% to 37%, more people said it was a good idea for the government to exert more control over the economy. The exception here is the undiminished support for the government to more strictly regulate the way major financial companies do business. This is favored by a 61% to 31% margin.
And while anti-government sentiment in general is up, Democrats are the target of most of the public’s anger and “a more significant driver of possible turnout among Republicans and independents than among Democrats.” Independents, Kohut notes, “favor the Republican candidates in their districts by an overwhelming 66% to 13% margin.”
Kohut doesn’t delve into the motivation for this swing. One can, like the Democrats, chalk this up to random anger and misplaced anxiety. But that assumes that the electorate has not been paying attention or has been bamboozled by, well, by whom isn’t certain. Or one can give the voters some credit and see the connection between voter sentiment and what it is that the Democrats have done while in office. It seems logical that the enormous uptick in debt and spending, the massive health-care bill, the bailouts, and the car-company takeovers have sparked a significant voter backlash.
We will see in November whether voters are irrationally angry with everyone in office or whether their ire is directed at those who sought a huge expansion of the scope and power of the federal government. If it’s the latter case, I’m sure the Democrats will come up with some excuse. But by then it’ll be hard to miss the message: a vast overreach by the Democrats has sparked a revival of the public’s distaste for liberal statism.