A majority of Americans believe that the federal government is “an immediate threat to the rights and freedoms of ordinary citizens,” a new poll suggests.
According to a poll conducted for CNN, 56 percent believe the federal government has grown so large and powerful that it poses a risk to rights and freedoms, while 44 percent disagree.
If accurate, it would suggest that anti-government sentiment in the US is not confined to Tea Partiers or libertarians, as neither of those movements enjoy similar levels of support.
But the poll does indicate that those on the right are more likely to see government as a threat than those on the left. While nearly 70 percent of self-identified Republicans and 63 percent of independents view the government as a threat, only 36 percent of self-identified Democrats do.
This is the second CNN poll in less than a week to suggest deep antagonism to — or at least disappointment with — the federal government. A poll earlier this week found that 86 percent believe the federal government is “broken.”
However, the widespread discontent with government isn’t stopping some commentators from interpreting the poll results through a partisan perspective. “Poll: 56% are tea-baggers,” states a headline at DailyMail.com.
The poll results “shouldn’t surprise anybody,” writes Matthew Givens, a former Alabama Libertarian Party official and Ron Paul supporter. “Because of recent actions taken by our government, fewer and fewer people actually believe it cares about protecting our rights.”
But concerns about government intrusion on rights and freedoms have not been limited to the right wing. In the post-9/11 era, many left-wing politicians raised concerns about the expansion of government power through the Patriot Act and other anti-terror measures. Many on the left were also alarmed by the Bush administration’s eagerness to expand US military power and engage in conflicts abroad.
In those areas, the left found an unlikely compatriot in Ron Paul, the Texas libertarian whose grassroots popularity was highlighted when he won a presidential straw poll at the CPAC conference last summer. Paul attracted the attention of many on the left by advocating against government surveillance and US involvement in foreign wars.