Poll: Majority of Americans Believe Gov't Threatens Liberties

By:  James Heiser
Poll: Majority of Americans Believe Gov't Threatens Liberties

According to a recent Pew Research Center poll, a clear majority of Americans now fear that the federal government is a threat to their own personal rights and freedoms, and that it will not do the "right thing."

In the American Declaration of Independence, the Founding Fathers stated that “Governments are instituted among Men” to secure the fundamental rights of the people, and that governments derive their “just powers from the consent of the governed.”

But now, a clear majority of the American people distrust the federal government and believe that it “threatens their own personal rights and freedoms."

Pew Research Center for the People and the Press has tracked public opinion regarding trust in the federal government across the span of several presidential administrations, and the level of distrust has steadily grown. In a January 31 release accompanying the latest poll results (“Majority Says the Federal Government Threatens Their Personal Rights”), the Pew Research Center noted that an overwhelming majority of citizens operate on the assumption that the federal government will not do the "right thing":

The survey finds continued widespread distrust in government. About a quarter of Americans (26%) trust the government in Washington to do the right thing just about always or most of the time; 73% say they can trust the government only some of the time or volunteer that they can never trust the government.…

Just 20% of Americans say they are basically content with the federal government; 58% say they are frustrated while 19% say they are angry. For the most part, these views have changed little during Obama’s presidency. However, the percentage saying they are content with government sank to a low of just 11% in August 2011, following protracted negotiations between the president and congressional leaders over raising the debt ceiling. The same survey found that the percentage expressing anger at government had reached 26%, and just 19% said they trusted the government at least most of the time.

The poll emphasizes that Americans do not view the federal government as an abstract threat, but as a concrete danger to their liberties; even 34 percent of self-described “liberal Democrats” view the federal government as threatening their "personal rights and freedoms.” And a majority of Americans share that assessment:

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