Six in 10 Americans believe that government is too powerful, according to a new Gallup poll, the highest proportion since Gallup began asking the question in 2002. The partisan divide on the question has also grown a lot since President Barack Obama was elected.
When asked, "do you think the federal government today has too much power, has about the right amount of power, or has too little power," 60 percent of respondents answered "too much power," 32 percent answered, "about the right amount of power," and seven percent answered, "too little power."
In 2002, more Americans believed that government had the right amount of power, 52 percent, than believe that government had too much power, 39 percent. The proportion of those who believe the government has too little power has remained steady, at around six to eight percent, since 2002.
One of the most remarkable changes over time, though, has been the growing partisan divide over whether the government has too much power. In 2002, Republicans and Democrats were about equally as likely to believe the government had too much power, 36 percent and 35 percent, respectively. (For independents, they number was higher - 45 percent.)
Throughout the George W. Bush administration, 2001 to 2008, the largest gap between Democrats and Republicans who believed the government was too powerful was 17 percentage points, with Democrats, at 57 percent, more likely than Republicans, at 40 percent, to say so.
After the election of President Barack Obama in 2008, though, the gap between Republicans and Democrats widened dramatically, with Republicans much more likely to answer that the government is too powerful.
About four out of five Republicans, 81 percent, now say the government is too powerful, which is 43 percentage points higher than the proportion of Democrats, 38 percent, who say that. The Republican percentage is the highest on record and the Democratic percentage is the highest in the Obama era. Independents tied their previous record from 2010 at 65 percent.
The Gallup poll comes after a number of recent scandals that, some argue, illustrate an abuse of government power. There was, for instance, the discoveries that the National Security Agency was collecting large amounts of cell phone usage and email data, the Justice Department had wiretapped the phones of Associated Press reporters and a Fox News reporter, and the Internal Revenue Service had targeted conservative groups for greater scrutiny prior to the 2012 election.
The Sept. 5-8 poll of 1,510 adults has a margin of error of plus or minus three percentage points for the full sample.