11 February 2016

Even many Republicans want bigger government – for themselves


27% of Americans identify as libertarians according to Gallup. The finding has encouraged folks at the Cato Institute. Gallup gets to that conclusion by somehow combining the answers it gets to these two questions:

  • “Some people think the government is trying to do too many things that should be left to individuals and businesses. Others think that government should do more to solve our country’s problems. Which comes closer to your own view?”
  • “Some people think the government should promote traditional values in our society. Others think the government should not favor any particular set of values. Which comes closer to your own view?”

After the most libertarian candidate in the Republican race, Rand Paul, suspended his campaign, after getting just 4.5% of the Iowa caucus vote, we approached the issue of size and scope of government in a rather more direct way. We got very specific and asked if respondents were ready to accept smaller government for themselves. Only 20% were ready to accept cuts in their own government entitlements in order to get the deficit down. 71% were not. It may be the case that most of us want smaller government for everyone else but don’t want to bear any personal sacrifices to ensure that government lives within its means.

Screen Shot 2016-02-11 at 09.54.14

This may be one of the reasons why Donald Trump is outflanking the small government Republican establishment. When we asked YouGov’s First Verdict panellists to say which of Mr Trump’s policies were “sensible” (without identifying them as Trump policies), the top-rated policy with 65% was his “no cuts to Medicare and Social Security entitlements”. Focusing on defeating ISIS rather than overthrowing regimes like that of Assad won 62% support – again suggesting Trump is closer to the mainstream than interventionists like Senator Marco Rubio. These policies are much more popular than his much-covered temporary ban on Muslim immigration, which got just 33% approving, or his wall across the Mexico border, winning a thumbs up from 36%.

Screen Shot 2016-02-11 at 10.16.59

For more about Portrait of America and the methodology behind First Verdict, click here.

For the complete Portrait of America catalog, click here.

Tim Montgomerie is Editor of Portrait of America