Public worry about government power hits record high

Neil Munro White House Correspondent
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The percentage of Americans who believe the government has too much power has risen to record heights.

“Six in 10 Americans believe the federal government has too much power, one percentage point above the previous high recorded in September 2010,” according to a new survey by Gallup. That’s up from 39 percent in 2003 and 56 percent in 2008.

“Thirty-two percent now say the government has the right amount of power,” down from a high of 52 percent in 2003 and from 42 percent in early 2009 said Gallup, whose results were drawn from a survey of 1,510 adults in early September.

The year-long upward shift is powered by post-election worries among President Barack Obama’s Democratic and independent supporters, amid news reports about drone strikes, surveillance of the media, Obamacare’s data collection, IRS pressure on political groups and the National Security Agency’s far-reaching anti-jihadi surveillance.

However, Gallup’s results do not show if any of the new-worried adults plan to vote for a small-government candidate in 2014 or 2016.

The new concerns may simply be a recognition of shortcomings in a government they support for other priorities, such as a withdrawal from Afghanistan, increased government control of the health-care sector or increased immigration.

Republicans’ worries about government power spiked from 48 percent in 2008 up to 78 in 2009, after Obama took power. It stayed level until the last few months, when it nudged up to 81 percent.

Democrats’ worry about excessive government power plunged from 57 percent in 2008 down to 25 percent once Obama was elected. But it has spiked form 28 percent to 38 percent over the last year.

Worry about government power reached 62 percent among swing-voting independents in 2008, but then nudged down to 54 percent in early 2009. Since then it climbed to 65 percent in 2011, fell to 52 percent in 2012 during Obama’s re-election campaign, but has now climbed back up to 65 percent.

Only seven percent of adults say the government does not have enough power, Gallup reported.

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