Surprise Poll Finding: Government Should Do More to Help People

The majority view in favor of bigger government is a shift from recent skepticism.

In a clear break from recent polling, a new survey has found that as many as 58 percent of Americans want the government to do more to “solve problems and help meet the needs of people.” 

Only 38 percent agreed with the statement that “Government is doing too many things better left to businesses and individuals,” the NBC News-Wall Street Journal poll found.

The 58 percent support for government marks an all-time high during the 20 years the question has been posed, analysts noted. The poll was taken nationwide Jan. 13-17, in the run-up to the recent three-day government shutdown.

The figure hovered around 46 percent to 52 percent during the Obama administration, and has risen under Trump. Such support comes from all groupings of respondents, but is highest among women. The last time support for more government was this high was in 2007, under the George W. Bush administration.

“The most unexpected point about the number is the time it is appearing,” the pollsters said. “The U.S. economy is doing well in most peoples’ eyes – 69 percent of those polled said they are satisfied with the state of the economy.”

Overall, “the low number of respondents who say the government is ‘doing too many things better left to businesses and individuals,’ seems to be a pretty direct rebuke of small government – at least for now,” they added.

Partisanship does affect the response on support for government doing more. Republicans are 25 points below the national figure and supporters of President Trump are 28 points below, the poll noted. “White men without a college-education, a reliably Republican voting group, are 15 points lower.” With a Republican in the White House, however, Republican respondent support for a government that “does more” is higher than it was with Obama as president.