Public Opinion



Daniel J. Elazar once noted that “The maintenance of federalism involves ‘thinking federal,’ that is, being oriented toward the ideals and norms of republicanism, constitutionalism, and power sharing.”  Regarding power, most people seem to agree that the United States Federal government has accumulated a great deal more power than it was originally granted, but there is broad disagreement over the cause of this shift and (unsurprisingly) whether or not these changes have been salutary or good.

This dashboard examines public opinion on power from multiple angles and sources, and includes the latest comparative research on several topics such as: the size and power of the federal government, which levels of government need more or less power, whether the government or private entitites should provide solutions to various challenges, and how American public opinion differs from other countries.

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Government Power Comparison

Measuring public opinion in relation to centralization can be difficult. The Advisory Council on Intergovernmental Relations (ACIR) measured popular opinion regarding governmental power from 1978-1992. Gallup also conducted its own surveys, roughly from 1976 to current day. Building upon the individual breakdowns from the subsequent slide, we show a composite view of these responses to help provide a clearer picture on how public opinion has changed overtime.

The two graphs below provide a further breakdown of the data from the previous slide.  It is interesting to note that from 1985 to about 2005 there actually was a more positive view of governmental power. Citizens were either saying that the government needs more power or has the right amount.  However, outside of this range, government having too much power was the highest value.

Country Comparison