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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

TDS Co-Editor Ruy Teixeira: Public Not Hung Up on Cutting Govt

Shrinking government is the big priority with Republicans. But they have failed to make it the central priority of voters, according to TDS Co-Editor Ruy Teixeira, whose latest public opinion snapshot crunches data from a new poll on Americans’ attitudes toward government conducted by The Washington Post, the Kaiser Family Foundation, and Harvard University. Teixeira explains:

The public was asked if they supported more, less, about the same, or no federal government involvement in dealing with a variety of issues. On five domestic policy issues majorities ranging from 67 to 84 percent wanted to see either the same or more federal government involvement in the issue. (In fact, on four of these issues outright majorities actually wanted to see more federal involvement.) Those wanting to see less or no involvement ranged from only 32 down to 16 percent.

And asked whether they would rather have the federal government provide more services even if it cost more in taxes or have the federal government collect less in taxes while providing fewer services:

A slight plurality (49 percent) preferred the first government-expanding option over the second government-cutting option (47 percent). Even more interestingly, these sentiments are notably less hostile to government’s role than has been the case at a number of points in the past. In 1994 only 28 percent selected the government-expanding option, while 57 percent preferred the government-cutting option.

Asked if they want their representative in Congress to fight for more spending to create jobs in their district or fight to cut government spending even if that means fewer jobs in the district, respondents said:

It turns out that, by 57-39, they want their representative to fight for more spending to create jobs. Again, there is no evidence here of an overriding commitment to cut government. And again we see a less hostile attitude toward government’s role than was seen back in 1994 when, by 53-42, the public came down on the cutting spending side of the choice.

As Teixeira concludes, “…Does the public want to see government performance improved? Yes, and in a big way. But don’t believe the conservative hype about a public thirsty to cut government. It’s just not happening.”

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