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Despite a sour economy and Obama's bold promises, Americans still fear big government more

April 21, 2009 |  4:22 am

A sprawling Washington, home of the federal government still seen as the biggest threat to American society

With unemployment and economic uncertainty rising, the stock market stubbornly stumbling and President Obama  promising an immense federal spending program and deficits to match even before his first 100 days are over, Americans remain convinced the larger threat to the nation's future remains Big Government, not Big Business.

A new Gallup Poll of 1,007 adult Americans in late March found that despite the controversial bailouts and battered bonus controversies, business is still seen as less of a threat than an over-sized central government in Washington (see above). This continues a longstanding tradition of American politics.

A few things have changed, however. Concerns over big labor, which was viewed as a major threat by 30% of Americans about 40 years ago, is today almost negligible -- only 10%.

No one ever accused U.S. voters of consistency. Even as they handed electoral control of the White House and both houses of Congress to Democrats traditionally favoring larger government in society and a new president promising to enlarge government's role, a substantial majority (55%) still see big government as the larger threat; 32% see big business as the biggest threat, up slightly from 25% three years ago.

The results provide at least a possible blueprint for beleaguered Republicans struggling in disarray that their message of too much spending/too much government may resonate by the time of the 2010 midterm elections.

That's a traditional time when the party controlling the White House loses some congressional power, as The Ticket reported Monday in its historical examination of the Misery Index.

The poll's findings also help explain why bipartisanship might make a better ride in Disneyland than a working concept in Washington:

While the posse of Republicans who see big government as the main threat jumped from 68% in 2006 to 80% today, the number of Democrats fearing big government plummeted from 55% three years ago to 32% today.

So the ideological gap of fear over government's growing role in American life has actually widened.

Likewise, Republicans fearing big business fell from 18% back in 2006 to 10% today, while Democrats worried over large companies jumped from 32% to 52% in the same period. Gallup reported only slight changes in the numbers from a similar poll question in December 2008.

-- Andrew Malcolm

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Photo: Associated Press

Hat Tip to Mark Silva in the Swamp.

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