Poll: Americans Are Increasingly Wary of Government Overreach Under Biden

Dark Capitol (Mark Wilson / Getty)
Mark Wilson / Getty

Now that the brunt of the Chinese coronavirus pandemic is over, Americans are ready for the U.S. government to relinquish much of the control it obtained in an effort to “slow the spread.”

According to a Gallup poll released on Thursday, 52 percent of Americans believe the government is “doing too many things that should be left to individuals and businesses.” Fifty-four percent say the government has “too much power.”

Americans’ attitudes have shifted since last year, when a majority of  Americans —54 percent — said the government should do more to solve problems. The poll report credited the change to desire for more security during the pandemic.

“Last year marked only the second time in Gallup’s 29-year trend that at least half of Americans endorsed an active role for the government on this item,” according to the poll report. “The other pro-government response came in the weeks after the 9/11 terror attacks amid heightened concern about terrorism and a surge in trust in government.”

Notably, Republicans have rarely wanted more government, even during crises. Democrats and independents, however, have widely shifted over the years. In 2020, 56 percent of independents wanted the government to do more to solve problems, compared with 38 percent now — even lower than 45 percent before the pandemic began in 2019.

Americans also prefer a “limited government role” when it comes to trade-offs between taxes and government services. Half of Americans say they prefer fewer services and lower taxes, while 19 percent want more services and higher taxes — 29 percent wants both to stay the same as they are now. Unsurprisingly, Democrats are in favor of higher taxes and more services than Republicans. Also, according to the report:

In the five times Gallup has asked this question since 1993, the preference for lower taxes and fewer services has consistently prevailed, held either by pluralities or majorities of Americans, including a high of 56 percent in 2011. Only as many as 25 percent, in 2019, have said they wanted higher taxes and more services.

Since 2005, a majority of Americans have contended that the government has too much power, peaking at 60 percent in 2013 and 2015 during Barrack Obama’s presidency. Few Americans have “ever said the government has too little power.”

Even though Americans’ views on federal government power have not changed much since 2019, views along political lines have recalibrated since Joe Biden became president, taking over from former President Donald Trump. According to the poll, party difference were much smaller two years ago, with 61 percent of Republicans, 57 percent of independents, and 51 percent of Democrats saying the government had too much power.

Now, 82 percent of Republicans, 59 percent of independents and 19 percent of Democrats say the government has too much power. Most Democrats — 63 percent — say the government has “the right amount of power.”

Over the past year, the percentage of Americans perceiving too much government regulation of business and industry has increased seven percentage points, from 36 percent in 2020 to 43 percent in 2021.  According to the report, the shift is on par with the last time a Democrat was elected president after a Republican. When Obama became president after George W. Bush, the percentage increased seven points as well, from 38 percent to 45 percent.

In contrast, Americans were happier under President Trump — during his second year in office, the amount of Americans who thought the government was too involved in regulating business went from 47 percent in 2016 to 39 percent in 2018. The report concluded:

More Americans typically prefer a limited government role to an active one, think there is too much rather than too little regulation of business and believe the government is too powerful. The COVID-19 situation and the Trump administration’s response to it in 2020 may have briefly changed Americans’ views on the proper government role, but whatever effect it had has now disappeared.

The poll was conducted from September 1-17 with 1,005 adults and has a margin of sampling error of ±4 percentage points at the 95% confidence level.


Please let us know if you're having issues with commenting.