Record- or near-record-high percentages of Americans are critical of the size and scope of government, as measured by four Gallup trend questions updated in September. This sentiment stretches to 59% of Americans now believing the federal government has too much power, up eight percentage points from a year ago.
Nearly as many Americans also give the antigovernment response to a question asking whether government should do more to solve the country’s problems or whether it is doing too many things that should be left to businesses and individuals. Today’s 58% saying it is doing too much is just slightly below the 59% to 60% levels recorded in the mid- to late ’90s.
It is not simply Republicans who are recoiling from the size and growth of government. Sixty-five percent of independent respondents say the government has too much power, and 60 percent say it is doing too much.
The “opportunity” that Obama and his team perceived to grow the size and scope of government and reorder the relationship between the private and public sectors was ephemeral. The public was not prepared for and is now in rebellion against Obama’s statist agenda. The Tea Party movement is the quintessential expression of this aversion to big government, and these poll numbers explain why the movement and the candidates it has backed are resonating with the American people.
Modern conservatism is based above all else on the notion that government must be limited to ensure our freedom and prosperity. That Obama has been able to garner such a widespread following for this ideal makes him one of conservatism’s most effective recruiters.