Poll: 58% want LESS government

From Moore Information;

President Obama continues to enjoy high job approval ratings and even higher personal ratings. People like the President and, given the state of the economy and other problems facing the country, voters want him to do well. They may be uncertain if his policies will work but so far they are willing to give him the opportunity to implement his programs. In fact, in our most recent national survey we found his approval rating at 60% and a majority of Americans (54%) saying they support the President’s stimulus and budget plans.

High approval ratings and majority support for Obama’s signature programs would indicate an administration at the top of their game with little reason to be concerned about Republican opposition. Indeed, when we look at voters’ confidence in Republicans in Congress to solve problems we see little reason to think differently. A recent Gallup poll1 showed that only 38% have a great deal or fair amount of confidence in the Republicans in Congress to do the right thing for the economy. Furthermore, in our recent survey the GOP trailed Democrats on the generic ballot by seven points (42% to 35%).

So where is the good news for Republicans?

Well the good news is that the American voter still believes in smaller, less intrusive government and is quite concerned when asked about the potential negative ramifications of the Obama spending plans. Moreover, from a political perspective, the American voter is already, just four months into Obama’s tenure, inclined to elect Republicans to provide a check and balance on the President and the Democrats in Congress. And by a very significant margin. Here’s how our question looked and the results:

“Now I’m going to read you two statements. After hearing each, please tell me which statement comes closest to your own view.

Some people say it’s important to vote to elect more Democrats to Congress to help support President Obama and his policies and to allow Democrats to implement their agenda.

Other people say that Democrats are already in control of the White House, the Senate and the House of Representatives and we should vote for Republicans for Congress to help keep a check and balance on President Obama and the Democrats in Congress.”

The era of big government may not be over, but a large majority of Americans say they would like it to be. This view is shared by large majorities of Republicans (84%) and Independents (64%). Even among Democrats, more than a third (35%) say government should be smaller and do less, while just 47% of Democrats say government should be bigger and do more.

Even a plurality (42%) of the voters who approve of the job Barack Obama is doing believe government should be smaller and do less; and voters who support him on the stimulus are mixed on whether government should be bigger and do more (43%) or smaller and do less (39%). If there appears a disconnect here, much of that can be attributed to the urgency voters feel about the state of the economy and their willingness to give the President the benefit of the doubt — for the time being — to try and solve the problem. But in the few short months he has been in office, Barack Obama’s policies have refocused Americans on the proper role for their government and they’re not looking for more of it.

These numbers are even more encouraging for Republicans when compared to a similar question we asked back in 2008.

In April of last year, we found that 46% of Americans felt government was “too big”, while 27% said government was “not doing enough” and 14% felt the government was about right and needed “no change.” Granted — this is a slightly different question with the third “no change” option, but the two-option question pushed people into one camp or the other, and today they clearly opt for a smaller government that does less.

For the time being, at least, Republicans concerned about being perceived as heartless budget-cutters can relax. Obama’s embrace of ever expanding government has severely restricted Democrats’ ability to effectively employ that line of attack on fiscal conservatives.

Looking more deeply into the Obama stimulus and budget packages we asked voters a series of questions on potential ramifications of the Obama spending plans and found large majorities less likely to support his plans when they heard a number of specific arguments against them.

Here are the messages that voters found most disconcerting about the President’s programs:

“Now, here are some statements about President Obama’s plans. After hearing each, please tell me if you are more likely or less likely to support Obama’s stimulus and budget plans. If it makes no difference, just say so.”

SEE LENGTHY CHART HERE

Interestingly, voters of all ages were moved similarly by the Social Security message. But, as one might suspect, younger voters appear more motivated than older voters by the foreign debt and the “taxes and fees” messages.

In the final analysis voters of all ages and stripes are quite wary of the long term impacts of the Obama agenda. These are legitimate voter concerns and legitimate reasons to oppose the President’s budget decisions. As these potential outcomes become more apparent, expect the “check and balance” question to improve even more.

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  • public servant

    These polls are belied by the actual voting behavior of the public. Most of us might in the abstract favor less government. After all, government is what isn’t done in the market, where at least in principle the choices are free. But when it comes to actually cutting government, most of us naturally want to cut the programs we don’t like, and keep the ones we do. If it comes to a choice of cutting the programs we like, most of us will stick with the big government.

    Example: I don’t want to cut the military. If cutting big government means cutting back the military, I’m against it.

    Others will have different priorities. So we keep big government, however bloated we may think it is.

  • Josephine

    I agree. We need government and all that it does for all of us. No cuts!!!

    • eagle eye

      How would you feel about cutting Oregon’s bloated prison budget and using the savings to fund education and human welfare programs?

      • valley person

        I would feel great about that, but as public servant points out, this is never the available choice. We get the same people arguing against big government arguing for continuing the war in Iraq, expanding the war in Afganistan, locking ever more people up, building more nuclear power plants (which require a lot of government oversight, plus waste storage,) preventing women from having abortions, preventing gays from being able to marry, keeping people in vegetative states alive, torturing suspected terrorists, and so forth. Big government is fine with both parties. They just have different priorities for what it should do.

        Republicans failed to cut back on government when they had the chance, and instead expanded it by leaps and bounds. Now they carp about Obama, but they blew their credibility and it may take a long time to win it back.

        • eagle eye

          On the other hand, the Oregon Republicans in Salem have been pretty consistent, the senate vote on taxes was party-line. There was a credible Republican alternative budget, not that it got much play in the media, such as they are in Oregon. If I could choose between the Republicans’ approach and the Democrats’ I would choose the former. Not that either is close to ideal.

          I hope the tax increases get on the ballot and the voters can choose. With some reluctance, I will vote against them. I say with some reluctance because I think Oregonians have done a poor job of preparing for financing the state government through this recession.

      • Rupert in Springfield

        We already have the most expensive education system in the industrialized world. The one thing we absolutely know for a fact, absolutely and positively, is that increased funding for education does not result in increased performance.

        How about this as a sensible plan.

        We spend about $7k per student for public schools now ( more per student if you factor in special ed, and a so many are classified as such that the true cost is $10k per student, but I’m giving public schools every possible break here ). Take half that money and give it as a voucher so the kid could go to private school

        The other half still goes to the public school, so they get increased funding per student who stays in the system for every kid that leaves.

        The kids with the $3,500 can then spend it on the private school of their choice and get the education they want. The public schools immediately get an increase in per student funding.

        People would stand in line for this as they always tend to do when vouchers are offered. Just like the DC program the Dems killed. I guess Obama didn’t want the riff raff in Friends with his precious darlings.

        Anyway, parents would have a choice, public schools would have more funding, and kids could actually get an education.

        Yes, initially the parents standing in line to leave the public school system would be an embarrassment for the OEA, but with the increased funding, for doing absolutely nothing on the public schools part, they would finally have the chance to put their mouth where the money is.

        Sounds like win win to me.

        That is unless the embarrassment of kids leaving is harder to bear than the chance to put up or shut up.

        You know, you would think teachers would relish the chance to finally put to rest the whole voucher thing. I guess I wonder if its so useless, why do they fight it so?

        I now declare the gates open. Let the personal invective begin!

        • eagle eye

          You know, something very like that was on the ballot in Oregon almost 20 years ago. It got slaughtered 2-1, just like it did twice in California.

          Go ahead and get it on the ballot again and see what the voters do to it.

          • Rupert in Springfield

            Well, I wasn’t asking your opinion of how it would do in an election. We all know how powerful the teachers union is in this state, that’s not under contention.

            I was asking what would be wrong with a plan like that. In fact I have asked the exact same thing every time you put up this baloney that we don’t spend enough on schools.

            I’m beginning to think you don’t have an answer for it.

            You just simply want to throw money at an already very expensive school system and you really don’t have any plan beyond that. You also don’t really have an answer for why our school system is the most expensive in the world and yet yields the poorest results.

            The thing is, Id be totally willing to support your money throwing plan half way if you would support my introducing competition plan half way.

            Looks like you don’t have much of an argument for that.

            Which makes pretty clear where you stand, You just want a lot of money for teachers unions, this isn’t about improving education at all.

            Well, somehow I don’t think your idea to cut prison and jail spending to get more money for teachers unions is going to go anywhere.

            So, why don’t you just try your own solution. Why don’t you get it on the ballot, cut jails and prisons to get your money. See how it does.

          • eagle eye

            As a matter of fact, I voted for vouchers 20 years ago. I came to the realization that it’s a loser, a non-starter, people just don’t want it. And I don’t delude myself that it’s just the sinister influence of the teachers’ unions. If you think that makes me a stooge of the unions, so be it.

        • valley person

          “We already have the most expensive education system in the industrialized world. ”

          And your source for this is?

          “The kids with the $3,500 can then spend it on the private school of their choice and get the education they want.”

          What private schools other than church subsidized ones educate kids for $3500 a year?

          No invective…just questions.

          • Rupert in Springfield

            >And your source for this is?

            You are going to argue we don’t spend the most or damn close to it?

            Ok – Here’s one:

            USA Today – http://www.usatoday.com/news/education/2003-09-16-education-comparison_x.htm

            This story was citing an OECD report.

            “The United States spent $10,240 per student from elementary school through college in 2000, according to the report. The average was $6,361 among more than 25 nations.
            The range stretched from less than $3,000 per student in Turkey, Mexico, the Slovak Republic and Poland to more than $8,000 per student in Denmark, Norway, Austria and Switzerland. ”

            And no, I will not get into statistical games on percent of GDP etc.

            >What private schools other than church subsidized ones educate kids for $3500 a year?

            What is the issue with parochial schools? If kids can get an education at a parochial school for $3,500, doesn’t that tell you something about the $10,000 we spend now? Church schools are not subsidized more than public schools. Quite the reverse actually.

            At any rate – Its crucial that schools DO NOT educate for the same price as the voucher.

            I think its crucial those who leave the public schools system should pay something. That’s why I am trying to give public schools every break here. I’m going with the lowest per student cost figure, and I am also suggesting they get to keep half the money for doing nothing. This allows advocates of money throwing to be placated and also allows those who want try something different to do so.

            One reason for private schools success is the very fact that the parents have a very vested interest in the child’s performance since they are spending a lot on their education.

          • valley person

            OK. We spend more in actual dollars than most nations. As we should since we are one of the wealthiest nations.

            Your explanation on your proposed voucher price is fine. But as a follow up, why have you not proposed the same thing for say, fire police, or prison services? In other words, why pick so hard on teachers? Why not figure the cost of local police, fire, and jail service, give everyone a voucher for 1/2 that amount and let them opt out by hiring private security or fire protection? After all, police and fire are just as unionized as teachers, and must be just as wasteful of tax dollars no? Why not hold them to the same standard?

          • eagle eye

            Police and fire are kind of a natural monopoly. It doesn’t matter that much to me where my neighbors’ kids go to school. (Unless they go to a terrorist or secessionist school, say.)

            But if my neighbor’s house is burning down, I want one fire truck at the hydrant.

            Ditto if I call the cops on my neighbor. Two police forces = gang warfare.

          • Rupert in Springfield

            >OK. We spend more in actual dollars than most nations. As we should since we are one of the wealthiest nations.

            Why in the world would this make sense?

            Does this also mean that someone who is wealthier should spend $100 for a gallon of milk and be happy if it is of lower quality than the $4 milk? Of course not.

            We spend more than other nations and that should change. We need to move away from this insane concept that spending more results in better education. Given international comparisons, or even our own comparison as spending has gone up, it clearly does not.

            The argument that we should spend more simply because we have it makes no sense whatsoever.

            >Your explanation on your proposed voucher price is fine. But as a follow up, why have you not proposed the same thing for say, fire police, or prison services?

            Because I wasn’t addressing them, I was addressing the school problem.

            There is no logical reason why I would propose the same solution to every problem. In other words a solution for one issue, doesn’t mean its a solution to every issue. If you have a headache, I might suggest you take an aspirin. If your car doesn’t run, I don’t suggest taking an aspirin for that. If you are in a war an aspirin wont solve that and likewise, if you want to read a book, taking an aspirin wont read the book.

          • valley person

            “There is no logical reason why I would propose the same solution to every problem.”

            I didn’t say you should. I merely asked why, given that the basic curcumstances are the same as follows:

            1: Public shools, public police, fire, and prisons all are staffed by members of public unions with similar benefits
            2: In every case it can be argued that costs of service have increased, with no better results.

            So if an apporpriate solution to public school inadequacy is vouchers combined with user fees, why isn’t that an appropriate solution for other public services? Why stop at schools? Why not charge a fee every time one calls for police or fire help? Why not charge you for the service of housing an inmate convicted of ripping you off? Why should I have to pay for that, when he did not rip me off?

            “We need to move away from this insane concept that spending more results in better education.”

            Why is this an “insane concept?” If more money buys better facilities, better teachers, smaller class sizes, a wider array of programs, then why wouldn’t we expect to have better educated citizens? And why wouldn’t the reverse be true: less money resulting in poorer facilities etc would net lower results?

            There is a pretty good correlation between the states and localities that spend more on schools and their results versus the states that spend less. Its not 100%, but it is noticeable.

            “Does this also mean that someone who is wealthier should spend $100 for a gallon of milk and be happy if it is of lower quality than the $4 milk?”

            No, but it also does not follow that deciding to spend $2 for milk instead is a wise choice, which is basically what you are proposing.

            Sorry if these question have given you a headache.

            Eagle writes: “It doesn’t matter that much to me where my neighbors’ kids go to school. ”

            I disagree with you on that. At least in the sense that it should matter to you what sort of education your neighbor’s kid gets, if not where he/she gets it. There is a strong correlation between low education achievement and crime for example, so if that kid fails he may end up stealing your car.

          • Rupert in Springfield

            Well, its pretty simple. This is a textbook case of trying to argue by analogy and the two situations are not analogous.

            For one, there isn’t much of a sense out there that we are spending an exorbitant amount on fire or police and getting less and less for it. By comparison when a voucher program is started, people tend to line up in droves. I doubt very much the same would happen with your police and fire voucher program, there simply isn’t the same level of dissatisfaction.

            Second, there isn’t the same evidence that spending more on fire or police is as ineffectual as it is on schools. We have the Rolls Royce of school systems in comparison with both constant dollar spending and also in terms of comparison with other countries. Therefore we know with a great deal of certainty that more funding for schools is not the solution. We don’t know anything of the kind with police and fire. Frankly we know the opposite to be true if we include prisons in with police. We have gotten tougher on criminals in terms of locking them up and have seen some of the lowest crime rates in decades. Eugene vs. Springfield vis a vie the recent FBI UC statistics that came out is a textbook example. you don’t see a lot of people in Springfield running around all frustrated that they spent money on jails and nothing happened. Something did, Eugene was the only major city whose crime stats went up, Springfield’s went down.

            In addition, people on their own have been able to demand choices, at least in terms of increasing right to carry states. With those choices have come a decrease in crime. Not a lot of people frustrated at right to carry. Therefore in the police and fire situation, people see a direct relationship with spending, choices and effectiveness. There simply isn’t the same thing with schools. People see more and more spending there, and not a lot to show for it.

            Basically what you are trying to construct here just doesn’t make a lot of sense. Solutions to some problems are not solutions to every problem. For a solution for one problem to be relevant to another, the situation has to be analogous. In the case of your voucher program for police and fire, it simply isn’t analogous so that’s why it doesn’t work.

            In short, your approach, to assume invalidity of a solution for one area due to its inapplicability in all areas is simply a false logical construct. I have no idea why you seem to think it has value.

            >Why is this an “insane concept?” If more money buys better facilities, better teachers, smaller class sizes, a wider array of programs, then why wouldn’t we expect to have better educated citizens? And why wouldn’t the reverse be true: less money resulting in poorer facilities etc would net lower results?

            Who argued for less? If you, at this stage, are now thinking my voucher program argued for less I’m not quite sure what you have been reading.

            I argued for a 35% increase in per student funding ( $10K + $3500 funding the student leaves in the school system when he takes the voucher ).

            I argued for smaller class size – Students would leave for private school, thus lowering class size, again with increased revenue per pupil.

            >No, but it also does not follow that deciding to spend $2 for milk instead is a wise choice, which is basically what you are proposing.

            No Im not, I was arguing your contention that if a country has greater wealth then it follows that it should spend more. Thats simply a fallacy, as pointed out in the milk example.

            At any rate, from this statement its clear you didn’t even read my voucher proposal which clearly advocated for more money on a per pupil basis.

            I really feel like I wasted my time since you clearly are just interested in popping off with the OEA boiler plate and non sensical analogies and cant be bothered to read the proposal you are arguing with.

            >Sorry if these question have given you a headache.

            No, I’m just amazed that you persisted for so long in a false logical construct to try and shoot down a solution you obviously hadn’t read.

            Look, if you want to debate a point, that’s fine, but if you cant be bothered to even read someone’s idea before arguing with it, you simply are being silly. I cant believe after all this going back and forth you didn’t even read my initial post. I’m not sure on what basis you really expect one to take your responses with any degree of seriousness with that sort of behaviour.

          • valley person

            “For one, there isn’t much of a sense out there that we are spending an exorbitant amount on fire or police and getting less and less for it….there simply isn’t the same level of dissatisfaction.”

            I agree with you. But why is this the caset? Police and fire are as unionized, and even more a “monopoly” that is public education? They get much better pensions than teachers. Houses burn down, crime remains a problem in the US and is much higher than in other nations. Its not like fire and police departments are 100% successful.

            “Therefore we know with a great deal of certainty that more funding for schools is not the solution.”

            No, we don’t know that at all. We know that we spend more on schools in constant dollars per pupil than we did a few decades ago, yet basic test scores are about the same. That suggests more money has not bought better results. But over the past 3 decades poverty has grown, kids in public schools with English as their 2nd language have increased by a large number, and the skills needed to make one’s way have become more demanding and complex. The blue collar union jobs one could go into with very basic academic learning are all but gone. K-12 now has to prepare many if not most students for college, not just trades.

            “Frankly we know the opposite to be true if we include prisons in with police. We have gotten tougher on criminals in terms of locking them up and have seen some of the lowest crime rates in decades.”

            Again, we don’t “know” this at all. There is a correlation between increased prison population and decreased crime in the US, but is it the cause? I think it has contributed, but there are multiple other factors. I know you like intrnational comparisons on education. Well European countries and Canada typically have 1/7th of our prison population proportionately, yet have much lower crime rates than we do.

            “I really feel like I wasted my time since you clearly are just interested in popping off with the OEA boiler plate and non sensical analogies and cant be bothered to read the proposal you are arguing with.

            I care nothing about OEA, but if you feel you wasted your time, don’t blame me. I don’t have a gun to your head.

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