Over the last forty-five years, Gallup has periodically asked this question: “In your opinion, which of the following will be the biggest threat to the country in the future–big business, big labor, or big government?”
When Gallup asked the question in a survey conducted Dec. 4-7, 2008, a month after President Obama was elected but before he was inaugurated, 53 percent said big government was the biggest threat, 31 percent said big business was the biggest threat, and 11 percent said big labor.
Three months later, in a survey conducted March 27-29, 2009, 55 percent said big government was the biggest threat, 32 percent said big business, and 10 percent said big labor.
When Gallup asked the question again two weeks ago–in a survey conducted from Nov. 28-Dec. 1–the percentage saying big government would be the biggest threat to the country in the future had grown to 64 percent–an increase of 11 percentage points from December 2008.
At the same time, the percentage saying that big business would be the biggest threat had dropped to 26 percent–a decline of 5 percentage points from December 2008 and 6 percentage points from March 2009.
During the same time frame, the percentage saying that big labor would be the greatest threat to the future of the country dropped from 11 percent to 8 percent.
The belief that big government is a bigger threat to the country than big business or big labor hit an all-time high of 65 percent in Gallup polling in 1999 and 2000, in the seventh and eighth years of the Clinton administration. After three years of the Obama administration, at 64 percent, it has now almost reached that high again.
Interestingly, according to Gallup, fear of big business has been declining during the Obama years even among Democrats, while fear of big government has been climbing.
In 2009, according to Gallup, 52 percent of Democrats said big business would be the greatest threat to the future of the country. In 2011, only 44 percent of Democrats still say that,
In 2009, only 32 percent of Democrats said big government would be the greatest threat to the future of the country. Now, in 2011, 48 percent of Democrats say big government is the greatest threat to the future of the country.
In 2009, 80 percent of Republicans and 59 percent of Independents said they thought big government was the biggest threat to the future of the country. Now, in 2011, 82 percent of Republicans say that and 64 percent of Independents.
At Osawatimie, Kan., on Dec. 6, President Obama delivered a major address calling for more vigorous regulation of business in the interest of protecting the middle class, and arguing that the economic crisis that hit in 2008 has resulted in a loss of trust between Main Street and Wall Street.
“Remember that in those same years, thanks to some of the same folks who are now running Congress, we had weak regulation, we had little oversight, and what did it get us?” asked Obama at Osawatomie. “Insurance companies that jacked up people’s premiums with impunity and denied care to patients who were sick, mortgage lenders that tricked families into buying homes they couldn’t afford, a financial sector where irresponsibility and lack of basic oversight nearly destroyed our entire economy.
“We simply cannot return to this brand of ‘you’re on your own’ economics if we’re serious about rebuilding the middle class in this country,” Obama said. “We know that it doesn’t result in a strong economy. It results in an economy that invests too little in its people and in its future. We know it doesn’t result in a prosperity that trickles down. It results in a prosperity that’s enjoyed by fewer and fewer of our citizens.”
“Too often,” Obama said, “we’ve seen Wall Street firms violating major anti-fraud laws because the penalties are too weak and there’s no price for being a repeat offender. No more. I’ll be calling for legislation that makes those penalties count so that firms don’t see punishment for breaking the law as just the price of doing business.