Nearly half of Americans believe the federal government has grown too big and too powerful and see it as a threat to their rights, according to a recent Gallop poll.

The poll results found 49 percent of Americans believe the feds pose “an immediate threat to the rights and freedoms of ordinary citizens.” Although the number of Americans with this view has not changed much in the last five years in Gallop surveys, it represents a tremendous increase from 2003, when just a third of Americans polled by Gallop felt this way.

Gallop writer Frank Newport interprets the results as a strong sign of partisan sentiments.

The remarkable finding about these attitudes is how much they reflect apparent antipathy toward the party controlling the White House, rather than being a purely fundamental or fixed philosophical attitude about government. Across the four surveys conducted during the Republican administration of George W. Bush, Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents were consistently more likely than Republicans and Republican-leaning independents to say the federal government posed an immediate threat. By contrast, across the four most recent surveys conducted during the Democratic Obama administration, the partisan gap flipped, with Republicans significantly more likely to agree.

He writes further:

 Overall, Americans who agree that the government is an immediate threat tend to respond with very general complaints echoing the theme that the federal government is too big and too powerful, and that it has too many laws. They also cite nonspecific allegations that the government violates freedoms and civil liberties, and that there is too much government in people’s private lives.

Out of all the specific issues alarming Americans, gun control and violations of the Second Amendment were most frequently mentioned, according to Newport. The most mentioned general issue were too many laws and that the government was too big in general.

While discussing the implications of the poll results, Newport writes that it “underscores the degree to which the role and power of government remains a key issue of our time.”

“From the people’s perspective, then, a focus on the appropriate role for government should be at the forefront of the nation’s continuing political discourse and should be a key point of debate in the current presidential election campaigns,” he concludes.

TJ Martinell

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