AEI's December polling report is out today. Popular sentiment about the ineffectiveness of government is still dramatically heightened.
More importantly, this report partially supports the view that Americans have an appetite for austerity. Those who would like to see the US follow an austerity path as, say, the UK has pursued should reflect on the results. Americans are ready, it appears, for a grown-up conversation about government cuts, though it remains unclear that they are ready for cuts to popular programs (we apparently think we can get government in order by limiting our cuts to wasteful spending...which is a bit difficult to define).
Here is the summary:
- 53% of Americans believe government needs serious reform, compared to 37% in 1997.
- Nearly half of respondents said they have less faith in government than they had 2 years ago, and that they hold this view strongly.
- Record high numbers don't believe the government can solve the problems it tackles.
- Twice as many think government performance is getting worse rather than better.
- Twenty percent today, twice as many as in 2000, are angry at government.
- Roughly 45 percent think government is a threat to their personal freedoms.
- Taxes aren't the problem for most people. Nor for many people are the federal government's priorities. Nor do people believe our system of government is fundamentally flawed. Most Americans see the problem as waste and inefficiency.
- A plurality believe that the government can balance the budget just by cutting wasteful spending.
- There is considerable evidence that Americans are hopelessly conflicted about what government should do. Americans think cuts in many popular programs should be off the table. At the same time they say we will have to have cuts in popular programs.