Pew Survey: Americans Suddenly Like Big Government Again

Mmm federal spending.

Adam Kliczek/Wikimedia Commons

Nothing changes American minds like an election.

The percentage of Democrats who felt the economy was getting better dropped from 61 to 46 after November 8, according to Gallup. For Republicans, it was the reverse: The percentage of Republicans with a positive assessment tripled from 16 percent to 49 percent.

More interestingly, Americans’ view of government seems to have rapidly shifted since last September, according to Pew. As many Americans would rather have a bigger government providing more services as at any point in the past couple decades. Support for big government has risen to 48 percent, up from 41 percent in September, while the percent of Americans favoring a smaller government providing fewer services has fallen from 50 to 45 in that time. It’s the first time since the beginning of the Obama administration, Pew says, that Americans have been so divided on the subject.

Subject by subject, look at how much support for increased government spending has grown since 2013, especially on infrastructure, health care, anti-terrorism, environmental protection, and assistance to the poor.

It wouldn’t be fair to call this a reaction to Trump, since he did promise money for infrastructure and health care for all, and swore he would not touch entitlements like Medicare and Social Security—in theory snapping his party away from its ideological fealty to smaller government as an overriding virtue. In effect, however, his administration has been much more generically Republican than his campaign suggested (at least as far as many of his appointments and policy proposals go). The White House may not have an appetite for spending. More Americans, including some Trump supporters, do.

There are still partisan divides in this data, as left-leaning voters consistently favor more government spending than their right-leaning peers in every category but anti-terrorism and military defense.

Not surprisingly, the strongest support for more government services comes from young people, poor people, and those whose education is limited to high school. That jibes with a recent survey from Harvard University researchers showing that more than half of American adults between 18 and 29 years old did not “support” capitalism, and had more positive views of socialism.