More than 25 percent of Americans view the U.S. government as an “enemy.” A new Pew Research Center poll reveals several troubling insights into how the public views government, the general mood being that they are more discontent now than they were 20 years ago.
Released on Nov. 23, the Pew poll measures how Americans across the political spectrum feel about the current state of government. Comparing the results to an identical survey conducted in 1996 shows a growing pessimism in the U.S.
Of respondents, 27 percent claim to think of the federal government as an enemy, 8 points higher than in 1996. Republicans and Independents are equally distrustful of the federal government, with 35 and 34 percent calling it antagonistic, respectively. Only 12 percent of Democrats agree, which is 1 point lower than they felt in 1996.
Measuring the level of emotion that the public feels about the federal government, the poll shows more disappointment than rage. Of those polled, 22 percent describe their feelings toward government as “angry,” while 57 percent say that they are “frustrated.” Only 18 percent admit to feeling content.
The data shows the angriest sector are older, conservative whites. Republicans are the angrier party, although it should be noted that during President George W. Bush's administration, Democrats held that position. The trend indicates the party that does not control the White House tends to be angrier at the federal government.
When respondents were asked what the biggest problems with the federal government are, Congress was the most popular clear answer with 13 percent. The Washington, D.C., gridlock came second with 11 percent, tied with politics.
Of those polled, 59 percent agree the federal government needs “very major reform,” which is a dramatic increase from 1997, when only 37 percent of respondents felt this was necessary. The majority also feel government only does a fair job of running its programs. Republicans are much more likely to want reform and to be critical of government’s functionality.
Respondents overwhelmingly agreed the government does not represent all Americans, with 76 saying that it is run by a small pool of big-money interests.
The partisan divide seems to be growing, with 80 percent of Republicans wanting fewer government services with only 31 percent of Democrats agreeing. That’s a gap of 49 percent, which is a dramatic increase from 1995, when there was only a difference in opinion by 19 percent.
The data indicates the public is generally fed up with Washington insiders and politics as usual, which could explain the ascendancy of anti-establishment candidates in the 2016 presidential race. With the mounting support for Republican candidates Donald Trump, Ben Carson and Democratic candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, this election cycle shows that Americans may be ready for a big shakeup of the old guard, The New York Times reports.