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How much do you trust the government? Your answer may depend on your party

A majority of Democrats (55%) believe the federal government supports America’s founding ideals, while only 24% of Republicans think so

The Capitol is seen under muted and rainy skies in Washington, Wednesday, March 24, 2021. Just 30% of voters say America is doing a good or an excellent job of living up to its founding ideals, writes Scott Rasmussen.
J. Scott Applewhite, Associated Press

Last week, I noted that 83% of voters share my belief that America’s founding ideals are worth fighting for. On top of that, 85% think it’s accurate to describe America’s founding ideals as freedom, equality and self-governance. Seventy-three percent believe those ideals provide a good foundation for bringing people together and unifying the nation.

Unfortunately, though, just 30% of voters say our nation is doing a good or an excellent job of living up to those ideals. Even worse, looking forward a generation or so, only a third of voters (33%) believe we’ll draw closer to living out those noble ideals.

One reason for the pessimism is that just 53% of voters think most Americans believe in those ideals. Think about that for a moment. Eighty-three percent (83%) of voters believe that the founding ideals are worth fighting for, but just 53% think most Americans support those ideals.

A bigger factor, however, may be that just 34% think the federal government supports the ideals of freedom, equality and self-government. Forty-three percent (43%) do not and 23% are not sure.

So, we have a situation where voters overwhelmingly believe America’s founding ideals are worth fighting for, but two-thirds of all voters don’t believe the federal government is on the same side. That’s consistent with other survey data showing that 59% believe the federal government is a special interest group; one that looks out primarily for its own interests.

It’s important to note that there is a pretty significant partisan divide on this question. By a 57% to 24% margin, Republicans believe that the federal government does not support the nation’s founding ideals. Independents are nearly as skeptical: 49% say the federal government doesn’t support those ideals. Just 22% take the more optimistic view.

Democrats, on the other hand, are more confident about the feds. By a 55% to 24% margin, those in President Joe Biden’s party believe the government does support the founding ideals. Some of the difference is explained by the fact that Democrats are in control of the government today. If former President Donald Trump was still in office and Republicans controlled Congress, the partisan divide would still exist, but it would look quite different.

But it’s important to recognize that that the nation’s partisan divide itself is based partly upon a different emphasis among the founding ideals. Overall, 46% believe they are all equally important. Thirty-two percent (32%) say freedom is the top priority, while 18% put equality on top.

A solid plurality of Republicans, Democrats and independents believe all three of the ideals are equally important. Republicans and independents, however, place a greater emphasis on freedom while Democrats are more evenly divided between freedom and equality.

By a 44% to 6% margin, Republicans say freedom is more important than equality. By a 28% to 18% margin, independents agree. As for Democrats, 30% believe equality is most important while 24% pick freedom.

One other demographic divide of note is based upon income. By a 36% to 15% margin, those who earn less than $50,000 a year place a greater emphasis on freedom. Those who earn more are more evenly divided but lean slightly in the direction of prioritizing equality over freedom.

Once again, though, it’s important to remember that strong pluralities of all demographic groups believe freedom, equality and self-governance are equally important. That’s my view as well. Finding a way to move closer to living out these ideals — and to find the proper balance — is a worthy challenge for our nation today.

Scott Rasmussen is an American political analyst and digital media entrepreneur. He is the author of “The Sun Is Still Rising: Politics Has Failed But America Will Not.”