With the congressional debate on the Obama/Pelosi/Reid debt bill has come an intense, and long overdue, debate on the proper role of government, its appropriate size and scope, and whether and when the private sector is a superior alternative to direct government action.
With that in mind, lawmakers and pundits everywhere would do well to commit these January 17-18th Rasmussen Poll numbers to memory. They explain why liberal Democrats seem so happy to sign on to nearly a trilion dollars (it’s actually $953.3 billion in new spending plus interest) in new spending without missing a beat. Their constituents want it!
Overall, given the choice between more government services and higher taxes, or fewer services and lower taxes, likely voters opt for the limited government/low tax option by the comfortable margin of 61% to 25%. That’s pretty much where Americans have been for some time now.
But the story is dramatically different when you break down the electorate by ideology and partisan affiliation. We all know these divides exist, but I, for one, was surprised at the extent of the chasm.
Ideologically, the breakdown looks like this:
Conservatives Moderates Liberals
More gov’t/higher taxes 7% 28% 53%
Less gov’t/lower taxes 83% 54% 34%
And the partisan breakdown is similarly revealing:
More Gov’t/higher taxes 7% 42%
Less Gov’t/lower taxes 83% 39%
These are dramatic differences that go a long way toward explaining why so many policy debates get so heated so quickly–partisanship and ideology are aligned so that your political enemies and your ideological opposites tend to be one and the same. It also explains why so many GOP members report near unanimous opposition among their constituents to the debt bill–and why 177 House Republicans exuded such supreme self-confidence in opposing the bill on final passage.
Interestingly, the 3-point edge among Democrats for bigger government and higher taxes is considerably smaller than the 19-point margin among liberals. Why? African-Americans, almost all of whom are Democrats and who presumably comprise a significant portion of the Democratic sample, favor smaller government and lower taxes by a wide margin, 53% to only 22%. White Democrats, in other words, resemble liberals in their fealty to big government while African-Americans take on a more conservative hue.