Home » Politics » Faith in … Us?

Faith in … Us?

It’s easy to make too much of any poll.  At best a poll is only a snapshot of the ebb and flow of opinion – and that’s assuming the polltakers called more than a few people and did the math right.  A good poll usually does little more than take what people know in their guts and move it into a kind of intellectual argument with real numbers.  The use of that is for you to judge.

But there is one poll that appears to be worth contemplating.  According to a CNN poll of 1,010 people who bothered to answer their phone, 15% of Americans now think that the Federal government will “do what’s right just about always or most of the time.”  This is a new low since the question was first asked in 1958 (pdf).

This naturally begs the question, “15%?  Really?  That high?”  But there’s a lot more to it than that.

There are some interesting details buried in this poll that are worth pointing out.  Younger people 18-34 are actually more likely to have faith in the Feds, reaching 26% Always/Mostly the right thing.  Millenials aren’t fueled by caffeine or seminars as much as they are by sheer optimism – which makes growing realism in the young all the more interesting as the next generation starts to split off.

The stat that I found most impressive, however, is that 77% of the public believes that government will do the right thing some of the time, and only 8% says they never do.  The “get government off our backs” crowd is still a tiny minority, with most people waiting (or hoping) for redemption by the feds.

Where it gets scary is that among Democrats, 27% fit into the Always/Mostly category.  Even self-identified liberals are not looking to the Feds to always be there for them.

Among all those numbers is the realization that the Federal government is now recognized as a flawed but not inherently bad force by a huge majority of people.  They are convincible if some serious forward progress is found.

The poll is handy because it confirms what bubbles up to the surface when I talk with just about anyone of any age or political affiliation these days.  People want the Government to do good things for us but are losing faith fast.  Very few people buy into the “government is evil” line, meaning that we are not talking about completely abandoning government but arguing about degrees.  Incendiary talk is really just talk.  If you set up the question to be as neutral as possible you’ll be hard pressed to find someone who can’t find at least something about the Feds they like.

The coming election cycle will play off against this backdrop, with the most smoke and noise coming from the Republican field.  There will be a tendency to exaggerate the belief that government can do nothing but screw up.  But while hope is fading in many quarters that the Feds can always be relied on, very few buy the hard line.

This is a Democratic Republic.  We get the government we deserve.  If that scares you as much as it does me, I think it’s up to all of us to make a point of deserving something a little bit better.

12 thoughts on “Faith in … Us?

  1. With the news & information we receive from the [allegedly] LIBRUL media and Faux Newz we are subjected to

    “…the most smoke and noise coming from the Republican field…”

    …that has to add to our collective mindset.

  2. Jack: Yup. The poll simply confirmed what I believed, but rarely hear – no more than 1 in 12 people really think the Feds are “always” wrong. That’s pretty much a fringe group.

  3. Di don’t doubt that faith in government is at an all time low but I am impressed by the younger voters. I hope they show up for Obama again because he will probably need them.

  4. Anna: I’ve been writing about the unique electoral prowess of the Millenials for a long time now, and I have to confess that I still don’t get them. I doubt they will turnout in 2012 as they did in 2008, but they are staying involved far better than group their age – even surpassing the Baby Boomers in the 60s. It’s impressive. And they do still have that faith, apparently.

  5. Marshal Susie: Well, I’d love to see us get rid of them, but the process of trying so far has gotten us an even dumber Congress over the last 10 years. People have to learn to organize first to make sure there are good choices running, not just Tweedledum and Tweedledumber.

    Jim: Seems high to me, too, but yeah – there’s always a few.

  6. I agree we have to clean out congress and start over but I can’t see why a smart person would want the job the way this crew has screwed everything up.

  7. Sheryl: That’s why organizing is so important – people have to unite behind intelligence and reason to make it happen. Yes, it’s hard work, but many hands always lighten the load! How do we organize? This is a start …

  8. I read your post yesterday and had nothing much to say, but I am now back with another tangent. It’s the occupy wallstreet protest, which may be winding down, but appears to me to be growing and spreading. I learned from a blog that it is coming to Mpls soon and by one report is in or will soon be in 70 cities (the occupytogether website is currently down,) If anyone else finds this story interesting here are a couple links:

    Protesters plan occupation at Federal Reserve Bank

    occupy mn.org

    From what I can see it is an interesting mix of people involved, with high participation by the millennials.

  9. Pingback: Scaring Ourselves with Numbers | Barataria – The work of Erik Hare

  10. Pingback: Mr. Smoot, meet Mr. Hawley | Barataria – The work of Erik Hare

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