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Post poll question on smaller vs. larger government

By Ed O'Keefe

The new Washington Post-ABC News poll spells trouble for incumbents and once again finds that most Americans favor a smaller government with fewer services.

Fifty six percent of respondents favor a smaller government with fewer services while 40 percent would prefer a larger government with more services. Those figures essentially mirror our findings dating back to when we first asked the question in 1984.

More than three-quarters of poll respondents say they see President Obama as favoring a bigger government with more services.

Read the full results on the size and scope of government question below:

27.) Generally speaking, would you say you favor (smaller government with fewer services), or (larger government with more services)?

Date Smaller Government, Fewer Services Larger Government, More Services No Opinion
4/25/10 56 40 4
1/15/10 58 38 4
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 LV 61 34 5
11/3/02 LV 60 34 5
11/2/02 LV 62 34 3
7/15/02 53 42 6
1/27/02 54 41 5
10/9/00 RV 58 32 10
10/1/00 RV 58 33 9
7/23/00 59 34 7
4/2/00 56 38 7
8/16/98 59 35 6
8/5/96 63 32 5
2/28/93 67 30 2
7/8/92 55 38 7
7/13/88 49 45 6
7/8/84 49 43 7

SOURCE: The Washington Post; ABC News

Read a poll summary or skim the full results and leave your thoughts in the comments section below

By Ed O'Keefe  | April 28, 2010; 10:00 AM ET
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You must be polling DC residents!! Out in the real world that will be about 80-20 favoring big government. People are so sick of paying huge taxes and getting nothing but government caught with their pants down when crisis hits. Like the coal mine disaster. Where where were all the Fed and State bueraucrats while this was building up?? Close all those big buildings in DC and get on with our lives.

Posted by: cdorbg | April 28, 2010 11:20 AM | Report abuse

I can understand the frustration of many people when they see things happen that could have been prevented by the Federal Govt. But, this is the most complex and powerful country in the world, and reverting back to the 19th century would be terrible for us and the rest of the world. We have grown to where we are by our own actions. We have to live up to the responsibility that we have accepted.

Posted by: JohnFr | April 28, 2010 12:28 PM | Report abuse

It would be very interesting to see data sorted by age group and by income group.

Posted by: Ishmael3 | April 28, 2010 1:03 PM | Report abuse

this is one of many oft repeated really stupid poll questions that r on the order of 'would u rather be fat or skinny' w/o identfying wat the respondent would do to reach the desired result. save your polling money and ask something worthwhile.

Posted by: tedri50 | April 28, 2010 3:01 PM | Report abuse



But ask them specifically what exactly do you want to get rid of and they offer programs that, if eliminated, would not put a dent in the annual budget, like public radio and TV.

When you ask them to name a country that they would live in that has the kind of small government that they claim to want, they cannot name one. (Somalia anyone?)

When you ask them which of the 5 major budget items they want to eliminate -- Soc Sec, Medi-care and -caid, Defense or Interest Payments -- they say none.

So it seems like they're unhappy but are not willing to analyze solutions that won't fit on a bumper sticker.

These are extremely complex questions that are beyond the ability of many, many Americans to comprehend.

It is fitting then, that the first agency this crowd lists for elimination is the Dept of Education . . . .


Posted by: DickeyFuller | April 28, 2010 3:53 PM | Report abuse

Our government is a huge, sprawling mess that can't even defend its borders, the most basic function of government from the time of the first city-states in Sumer. It costs a ton and performs terribly. If people were pleased with it, THAT would be a surprise.

Posted by: andrew23boyle | April 28, 2010 5:35 PM | Report abuse

Republicans mocking Obama for having big government show their stupidity b/c Bush expanded Government in MANY areas yet they never complained then

Why? Either they didn't know he was (and thus are ignorant) or they only want government to expand when they are in power and will complain when they arent

Posted by: Bious | April 28, 2010 9:01 PM | Report abuse

DickeyFuller: You need to get outside of the beltway more often. How condescending to state "So it seems like they're unhappy but are not willing to analyze solutions that won't fit on a bumper sticker. These are extremely complex questions that are beyond the ability of many, many Americans to comprehend." Wrong! Americans are much better at comprehending complex issues than you elites could possibly believe. They are also more practical - they watch their pocketbooks deflate and realize they can't provide for their families. You folks in DC are nothing but wannabe aristocrats who STILL think they know what's best for Main Street America. America is ready to throw out all the elites in DC. You have lead us astray and we will take back our country, one congressional seat at a time, in November.

Posted by: samwoods77 | April 29, 2010 2:13 AM | Report abuse

Everyone wants smaller government until their program gets cut. Let's begin with farm welfare.

Posted by: jckdoors | April 29, 2010 9:39 AM | Report abuse

It always amuses me when leftists start frothing at the mouth at the mere thought of a smaller government. They are either on the dole,part of the bureaucracy that administers the transfer programs, or they think that they benefit from the Leviathan State.

Relax, lefties--We are a long way from 18th-19th century classical liberalism. At the turn of the 20th century, all levels of government confiscated about 5% of total GNP. Now all levels of government consume well over 40%...and growing. How was it that we became the wealthiest country in the world with the highest standards of living at the turn of the last century without a federal welfare state apparatus and endless bureaucracies and regulation? Why is that it now frequently takes two incomes to make ends meet for many families with this large welfare state apparatus? I thought the welfare state and enlightened central planners were supposed to increase everyone's wealth.

The public sector feeds off the wealth created in the private sector, and there are a lot of people now dependent on this outright theft for their livelihoods. These people tend to vote themselves jobs, money, and security through the public purse at everyone else's expense. The only thing that will end this looting is our impending currency collapse with our concomitant bankruptcy.

Posted by: welfare-warfarestate | April 29, 2010 2:44 PM | Report abuse

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