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Recent polls show Americans' distrust of government

Published: Friday, Dec. 30 2011 12:59 p.m. MST

The U.S. Capitol in Washington, Tuesday, Dec. 20, 2011.

Associated Press

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Americans' trust of the federal government is low, according to new polls conducted recently. And while the issue of inequality has been in the forefront of political discourse, Americans do not think the federal government should prioritize redistributing wealth.

First, a Reason-Rupe poll from the Reason Foundation, a non-profit libertarian thinktank, found evidence that Americans like certain corporations better than their federal government. For example, 76 percent of Americans have a favorable opinion of their banks while just 15 percent view them unfavorably. They also have favorable views of their grocery store (88 percent), cellphone makers (73 percent), and Internet service providers (69 percent). In contrast, only 32 percent of Americans view the federal government favorably while 62 percent view it unfavorably.

Much angst looks like it is directed toward Congress rather than the executive branch. Forty-nine percent of Americans approve of the job President Obama is doing while 47 percent disapprove. Only 13 percent approve of the job Congress is doing and 80 percent disapprove.

More Americans say they are worried the federal government will do too much in the economy (54 percent) instead of too little (40 percent).

Forty-five percent of Americans are ready to eliminate the Department of Housing and Urban Development and 41 percent would eliminate the Department of Energy, while the Department of Education — on both Rep. Ron Paul's and Gov. Rick Perry's cut list, Reason notes — is favored to remain by 61 percent of Americans.

According to a Gallup poll, more Americans prioritize the federal government helping to grow the economy than redistributing wealth.

Forty-six percent of Americans believe it is extremely or very important that the federal government reduce the wealth gap while 70 percent think it is important for the government to increase equality of opportunity. Eighty-two percent think it is important for the government to grow and expand the economy.

Gallup reports that 52 percent now say "the fact that some people in the United States are rich and others are poor" is an acceptable part of the economic system — an increase from the last time the question was asked more than a decade ago.

Another Gallup poll shows that fear of big government is at near-record level at 64 percent. Only 26 percent thought big business was the biggest threat to the country in the future while 8 percent thought this of big labor.

The Pew Research Center reports little change of Americans' views on ideology since 2010 and the advent of left-leaning Occupy groups.

People view socialism negatively at an overwhelming 60 percent. The public is split on libertarianism with 37 percent viewing it negatively and 38 percent viewing it positively — though capitalism is viewed positively by 50 percent and viewed negatively by 40 percent.

Liberalism is viewed positively — 50 percent versus 39 percent. But so is conservatism — 62 percent versus 39 percent. And progressivism is viewed most positively at 67 percent with only 22 percent viewing it negatively.

EMAIL: jhigginbottom@desnews.com

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