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Eye Opener: Smaller vs. Bigger Gov't

By Ed O'Keefe

Happy Tuesday! The new Washington Post-ABC News poll suggests Americans still have a generally favorable opinion of President Obama even as confidence slips in his economic stimulus plans. They also still want a smaller government.

Eye Opener Barely half of Americans are now confident the $787 billion measure will boost the economy, and the rapid rise in optimism that followed the 2008 election has abated, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.

Our indefatigable polling unit -- and their colleagues at ABC -- often ask questions that do not make it to air or into the newspaper, but are certainly worthy of mention.

Case in point: We asked respondents, "Generally speaking, would you say you favor smaller government with fewer services, or larger government with more services?"

The poll found little change in underlying public attitudes toward government since the inauguration, with just over half saying they prefer a smaller government with fewer services to a larger government with more services. Independents, however, now split 61 to 35 percent in favor of a smaller government; they were more narrowly divided on this question a year ago (52 to 44 percent), before the financial crisis hit.

The idea of smaller government has been popular since the early days of the Clinton years, peaking in the late-90s and at the turn of the century, so continued support is no surprise.

Still, opinions on the size of government run against the current trend of expansion that began after the 9/11 attacks with the establishment of the Department of Homeland Security and continue today with new agencies and programs tied to the economic stimulus package.

Should the government get bigger or smaller? Leave your thoughts in the comments section below.

Post polling analyst Jennifer Agiesta contributed to this report.

Here's a breakdown of answers to the size of government question since 1992:

Date Smaller gov't fewer services Larger gov't more services No Opinion
6/21/09 54 41 4
1/16/09 53 43 4
6/15/08 50 45 5
11/1/07 50 44 5
6/20/04 50 46 4
11/4/02 (among likely voters) 61 34 5
11/3/02 (likely voters) 60 34 5
11/2/02 (likely voters) 62 34 3
7/15/02 53 42 6
1/27/02 54 41 5
10/9/00 (registered voters) 58 32 10
10/1/00 (registered voters) 58 33 9
7/23/00 59 34 7
7/23/00 (registered voters) 61 32 7
4/2/00 56 38 7
8/16/98 59 35 6
8/5/96 63 32 5
7/8/92 55 38 7

In other federal news...

Cabinet and Staff News: Robert Gates to NSC and Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I.) to the Pentagon? Some holds on Obama State Dept. nominees. Chief performance officer and deputy OMB director nominee Jeffrey Zients confirmed.

The Schoolhouse Flunks: The Obama administration has ripped down the little red schoolhouse in front of the Education Department.

Panel Sets Guidelines For Fighting Prison Rape: The National Prison Rape Elimination Commission, in a study to be released today, affirms that more than 7.3 million people in prisons, jails and halfway houses across the nation have "fundamental rights to safety, dignity and justice."

U.S. Regulators Reach Agreement on Derivatives: Securities and Exchange Commission Chairman Mary Schapiro proposed that her agency oversee derivatives linked to stocks and bonds and that a sister agency, the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, oversee all other derivatives.

People on Terrorism Watch List Allowed to Buy Guns, Weapons: In one case, a known or suspected terrorist was able to buy explosives, the Government Accountability Office reported.

Pentagon to Outline Shift in War Planning Strategy: It's intended to assure that the military is prepared to deal with a spectrum of possible threats, including computer network attacks, attempts to blind satellite positioning systems, strikes by precision missiles and roadside bombs, and propaganda campaigns waged on television and the Internet.

Homeland Security Said to Kill Spy Satellite Plan: The Bush administration plan to use satellites for domestic surveillance is reportedly axed after state and local officials say they have higher priorities.

HUD Using USDA's Tool to Track Stimulus Spending: USDA launched the geospatial mapping tool in April. Since then, USDA's site received more than 1.5 million hits.

Performance Pay for Federal Employees Still a Matter of Debate: Joe Davidson writes on some intriguing developments in the evolving, if not exhausting, world of federal worker pay.

Employee Groups Push SES Diversity Bill: The bill would require OPM to create within 180 days of the bill's passage an agency office devoted to Senior Executive Service issues. That office would provide oversight and policymaking functions.

By Ed O'Keefe  | June 23, 2009; 6:05 AM ET
Categories:  Agencies and Departments, Eye Opener  
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Smaller government is always better. Our founding fathers believed that and so do I!

Posted by: almek11 | June 23, 2009 8:42 AM | Report abuse

Everybody's for smaller government until they realize that they depend on some of the very services they rail against. Very similar to polls that show large percentages of voters want all members of congress to be voted out. When these same einsteins are asked whether or not they plan to vote out their current representative, the majority says they plan to vote to re-elect.

Posted by: dem4life1 | June 23, 2009 9:37 AM | Report abuse

It isn't so much larger or smaller government in my mind. It is efficient
government. Frankly, ours is not very efficient now. George Bush was for smaller government, but government seemed to get larger under his administration, as well as more confusing. It seems to me that dem4life1 is correct in part of his statement. We all want smaller government unless they want to delete a department we rely on personally. If he asked me whether or not I would vote for those representing Kentucky in the congress I would give him a resounding NO. At this point I would probably write in the President Obama's new dog before I would cast a vote for certain representatives.
I did not vote for them the last time they ran either. I don't think that Hal Rogers or Mitch McConnell have done a good job for the state. True, they have brought bundles of money from earmarks, some of which has been put to good use. But a lot of it went into buildings with their names on it, or projects that just leave you thinking why? So, am I for larger governemt or smaller? Neither. I am for efficient government, which we do not have now. I am not even sure that half the government employees know what their job really is, or what agency is to do what.
I am sure that the ones in congress know how to get their names on bridges, buildings and even in some cases get the name of a highway originally named after a
man who helped discover and settle the state, good old Daniel Boone, renamed after himself.

Posted by: StewartStuart | June 23, 2009 10:35 AM | Report abuse

What I find most interesting about the ABC polling statistics above is the consistency of the percentage of people who want smaller gov't. With the exception of Nov 2002, the percentage is is the 50s.

The surprising stats are the ones from 2004-2008 during GWB's last term, when the percentage went down to flat 50 for so long. How did the GOP convince all those people that the expansion of government on their watch was a good thing?

Every real, as in non-professional-politician, conservative I know was/is very upset with not only the size expansion of government in raw terms of numbers of agencies, boards, personel, etc, but much more so at the size of the spending expansion and the expansion of intrusion into more aspects of our lives.

Posted by: lquarton | June 23, 2009 11:12 PM | Report abuse

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