Majority of US Citizens Says the Federal Government Threatens Their Personal Rights [Pew Research Center]

Released: January 31, 2013

[Excerpted]

*** Overview ***

As Barack Obama begins his second term in office, trust in the federal government remains mired near a historic low, while frustration with government remains high. And for the first time, a majority of the public says that the federal government threatens their personal rights and freedoms.

The latest national survey by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, conducted Jan. 9-13 among 1,502 adults, finds that 53% think that the federal government threatens their own personal rights and freedoms while 43% disagree.

In March 2010, opinions were divided over whether the government represented a threat to personal freedom; 47% said it did while 50% disagreed. In surveys between 1995 and 2003, majorities rejected the idea that the government threatened people’s rights and freedoms…

,,,The survey finds continued widespread distrust in government. About a quarter of Americans (26%) trust the government in Washington to do the right thing just about always or most of the time; 73% say they can trust the government only some of the time or volunteer that they can never trust the government.

Just 20% of Americans say they are basically content with the federal government; 58% say they are frustrated while 19% say they are angry. For the most part, these views have changed little during Obama’s presidency. However, the percentage saying they are content with government sank to a low of just 11% in August 2011, following protracted negotiations between the president and congressional leaders over raising the debt ceiling. The same survey found that the percentage expressing anger at government had reached 26%, and just 19% said they trusted the government at least most of the time.

pinions about Congress, while little changed over the past year, also remain very negative. Just 23% offer a favorable opinion of Congress, while 68% express an unfavorable view. Favorable views of Congress hit 50% in spring 2009 but subsequently have plummeted.

For two decades between 1985 and 2005 Congress was generally viewed more favorably than unfavorably. The low point during that period came in the fall of 1995 – just prior to the government shutdown of that year – when 42% offered a favorable opinion of Congress…

…At a time when there are wide partisan differences in opinions about government, there is broad agreement that members of Congress are the problem. Virtually identical majorities of Republicans (58%), Democrats (57%) and independents (56%) say that lawmakers, rather than the political system, are the problem with Congress.

*** Government Viewed as ‘Threat’ ***

Overall, 53% of Americans think that the federal government threatens their own rights and freedoms; 31% say it is major threat, while 22% say it a minor threat…

*** Trust in Government Remains Low ***

For the past seven years, a period covering the final two years of the Bush administration and Obama’s entire presidency, no more than about three-in-ten Americans have said that they trust the government in Washington to do the right thing always or most of the time.

The current survey finds only about quarter (26%) saying they can trust the government always or most of the time, while nearly three-quarters (73%) say that they can trust government only some of the time, or volunteer than they can never trust the government.

Majorities across all partisan and demographic groups express little or no trust in government. However, there continue to be sizable racial, age and partisan differences in these opinions.

More than twice as many Hispanics as whites trust the federal government (44% vs. 20%); among blacks, 38% say they can trust the government always or most of the time.

People younger than 30 have more trust in government than do those older than 30. And far more Democrats (38%) than independents (21%) or Republicans (15%) say they can trust the government at least most of the time….

*** [Majority] Frustration with Government [over last 15 years] ***

Public frustration with the federal government is not new. Since 1997, only once has a majority said they were “basically content” with the government – in November 2001, two months after the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

Over this 15-year period, majorities have consistently said they are frustrated with government, with smaller percentages expressing anger. The percentage saying they are angry at the government reached a high of 26% in August 2011, following the deal to lift the debt ceiling. Currently, 19% feel angry at government, 58% are frustrated, while 20% are basically content…

Full article link: http://www.people-press.org/2013/01/31/majority-says-the-federal-government-threatens-their-personal-rights/1/

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