Poll: Majority believes government doing too much
WASHINGTON -- A quarter century after the Reagan revolution and a dozen years after Republicans vaulted into control of Congress, a new CNN poll finds most Americans still agree with the bedrock conservative premise that, as the Gipper put it, "government is not the answer to our problems -- government is the problem."
The poll released Friday also showed that an overwhelming majority of Americans perceive, correctly, that the size and cost of government have gone up in the past four years, when Republicans have had a grip on the House of Representatives, the Senate and the White House.
Discretionary spending grew from $649 billion in fiscal year 2001 to $968 billion in fiscal year 2005, an increase of $319 billion, according to the Congressional Budget Office.
Queried about their views on the role of government, 54 percent of the 1,013 adults polled said they thought it was trying to do too many things that should be left to individuals and businesses. Only 37 percent said they thought the government should do more to solve the country's problems.
Americans had a slightly different perspective when it came to the specific issue of promoting traditional values. A slight majority -- 51 percent -- said they thought that was an appropriate activity for government, while 43 percent said it should not favor any particular set of values.
The sampling error for the questions in the poll, conducted for CNN by Opinion Research Corporation, was plus or minus 3 percentage points.
When asked if the size of the federal government has increased in the past four years, 72 percent said it had, and 86 percent said they thought federal spending had gone up during the same period. Those questions have a sampling error of plus or minus 4.5 percent.
In recent months, a growing number of conservatives have been complaining out loud about increases in the scope and cost of government, despite the GOP's grip on all the levers of power. (Read Jeff Greenfield's analysis of where the right went wrong)
"I believe that as a movement, we have veered off course into the dangerous and uncharted waters of big government Republicanism," said Rep. Mike Pence, R-Indiana, chairman of the House Republican Study Committee, a 110-member caucus that supports limited government and lower taxes.
"Conservatives came to office to reduce the size of government and enlarge the sphere of free and private initiative," said Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona. "But lately, we have increased government in order to stay in office."
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