Americans believe that lobbyists, large companies, banks, and the government have too much power. They have reason for their opinions. Banks nearly took down the credit system. Now, they refuse to lend to individuals and small businesses. The government runs larger and larger deficits. Lobbyists are partly to blame for that financial imprudence. They want federal payments to their clients to continue.
A new Gallup poll shows that, by contrast, “the public largely believes state and local governments, the legal system, organized religion, and the military each have the right amount of power or too little power.” These beliefs are odd because the power of state governments has eroded as they struggle with deficits. The power of organized religion may be important to individuals, but religious groups have lost some of the power they wielded in elections in the 1990s. The legal system is a “third wheel” in the triumvirate of government checks and balances. The military has sometimes fought against more intervention overseas only to be overruled by the Administration.
The results of the polls show something that is probably common. People reject the power of the institutions which are powerful at the time of the surveys. They support the groups and institutions that do not have as much leverage. The demons are the entities that citizens cannot control much.
The cycle of which groups are powerful and which are not will swing in the next few years, as it always does. Religious groups will take more control over elections. States will seize their own fates as they raise taxes and slash budgets. The Gallup poll results will look very different soon.
Methodology: Results for this Gallup poll are based on telephone interviews conducted March 25-27, 2011, with a random sample of 1,027 adults, aged 18 and older, living in the continental U.S., selected using random-digit-dial sampling.
Douglas A. McIntyre