Artificial active

John Hood: Political Labels Can Be Artificial | Columnists

When analyzing political behavior, then, or teaching any of my classes, I tend to rely on polls that asked more pointed questions or delved into specific issues. Fortunately, Gallup supplements its self-identification test with many such questions.

Consider this question, asked since the early 1990s: “Some people think the government is trying to do too many things that should be left to individuals and businesses. Others think the government should do more to solve our country’s problems. What comes closest to your point of view? »

Unlike the results of the self-identification test, the answers to this question about government activism have swirled around a lot over the years. Most of the time, the first (most conservative) position is significantly more popular than the “government should do more” position. For much of the 1990s and 2010s, for example, around 60% chose the right position while only 32% chose the left position.

During recessions, wars or other crises, however, the lines have converged or even crossed. Immediately after the September 11 attacks, 50% of Americans wanted the government to be more active compared to 41% who said it was doing too much. The gap was even wider in 2020 when the COVID crisis hit (54% to 41%), although it returned to a conservative level (52% to 43%) in 2021.