A majority (55%) of Americans say that government is almost always wasteful and inefficient, compared with 39% who think that government often does a better job than people give it credit for. Half of people surveyed say they prefer a smaller government that provides fewer services, compared to 42% who favor a bigger government that provides more services.
The Pew Research Center for the People & the Press’ 2011Political Typology study found that there were predictably sharp partisan disagreements between conservatives and liberals on these questions, though there were also substantive divisions within the broad electoral coalitions of Democrats and Republicans.
In the Republican coalition, at least nine-in-ten of the group described as Staunch Conservatives believe that government is wasteful and should be shrunk; more than eight-in-ten Main Street Republicans (who are conservative but to a different degree than Staunch Republicans) and seven-in-ten Libertarians share this belief.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, Solid Liberals and New Coalition Democrats are generally supportive of government but are divided on the question of expanding the social safety net. Nearly three-quarters of Solid Liberals believe that government is often better than it is given credit for and favor bigger government and more services; about two-thirds of New Coalition Democrats share that view.
There are political subgroups whose views are more mixed:
– Disaffecteds are the most financially-stressed of all the groups and are critical of both business and government. They generally lean Republican, but their support for smaller government is significantly less than that of Republicans — half prefer a smaller government that offers less services to a big government that offers more..
– Post Moderns lean towards the Democratic Party and strongly supported President Obama in 2008. Half of this group believes that government performs better than it is given credit for, while 45% disagree with this sentiment. A majority (55%) of this group favor smaller government.
– Hard-Pressed Democrats are largely blue-collar Democrats who are struggling financially and are cynical about government. Nearly seven-in-ten (68%) people in this group say government is almost always wasteful, though a majority (53%) prefer a bigger government that offers more services. Read More