Polling the Big Fears

From Gallup yesterday:

Americans’ concerns about the threat of big government continue to dwarf those about big business and big labor, and by an even larger margin now than in March 2009. The 64% of Americans who say big government will be the biggest threat to the country is just one percentage point shy of the record high, while the 26% who say big business is down from the 32% recorded during the recession. Relatively few name big labor as the greatest threat.

And the corresponding graph:

Ezra Klein describes it as “Liberalism’s problem in one graph.”

Yet I think there are to many caveats for that statement to ring true.

1. “Big Government’ means different things to different people. In the survey 48% of Democrats feared such a thing, but I doubt they’re fearing liberalism.

2. Gallup notes that, historically, this poll question almost always has the fear of big government topping the other two.

3. Events, political rhetoric and the news cycle matter. See the spike in fear of big business around 2002? Enron and WorldCom. Notice the dip in fear of big government in 2001? The terrorist attacks of 9-11.

The interesting part of that graph, at least to me, is the relatively non-existent fear of big labor, a trend that started well back in the mid-eighties. For all the incendiary talk of labors and unions in talk radio and Fox News you’d think more than 11% of Republicans would list it higher than big business, at least. Which is to say I’m curious why you often hear labor blamed or associated with individual issues from the rightward punditocracy (but never big business) yet see hardly any fear of it endangering the country.

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2 responses to “Polling the Big Fears

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