Only a few times in Gallup’s 20-year history of asking this question has a higher percentage of Americans said the government should do more to solve the nation’s problems than said the government is doing too much. Two of these were in the fall of 1992 and again in early 1993, as Bill Clinton ran for and took office as president. Another was in October 2001, just after the 9/11 terrorist attacks and at a time when Americans were especially supportive of government and its efforts to help the nation recover from the attacks and retaliate against those who were responsible.
Americans have been most likely to say the government was attempting to do too much during the middle years of the Clinton administration, and in recent years during the Obama administration.

These data were collected as part of Gallup’s annual Governance survey, conducted Sept. 6-9, which overlapped the end of the Democratic convention. Other Gallup measures from this poll, including satisfaction with the way things are going in the U.S., were more positive this year than previously, suggesting that the convention may have made at least temporary changes in Americans’ perceptions.

Major Partisan Divide on Appropriate Role of Government

The appropriate role of government in addressing the nation’s problems is one of the most divisive issues in this year’s presidential election. President Barack Obama tends to support the idea that government should do more to address the country’s problems, while Mitt Romney generally takes the opposite view.

It is thus no surprise to find large partisan differences in Americans’ views on the appropriate role of government. Two-thirds of Democrats think government should do more, while an even larger percentage of Republicans say government is doing too much that should be left to individuals and businesses. More than six in 10 independents agree that the government is doing too much.

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