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Shocker: Pew Survey Shows Little Trust in U.S. Government

by Robert W. Hunnicutt   |  February 5th, 2013 1
Gun rights activists

A group of gun rights activists gathers in Niagra Square on Saturday, Jan. 19, in Buffalo, N.Y., to protest gun legislation recently passed by the State of New York. (Photo by John Hickey/Buffalo News)

A recent survey by the Pew Center for People & The Press has found that 53 percent of Americans think the federal government is a threat to their personal freedoms. Of those who responded, 43 percent said their freedoms weren’t threatened by government, with the remaining 4 percent undecided.

That’s a reversal from the last time the question was asked in March 2010, when 45 percent felt threatened and 50 percent did not, and an even larger change from 1995, when the split was 36-62.

Conservative Republicans  felt most threatened, with 76 percent responding that way, up from 62 percent in 2010. The question was also asked of those of all parties who reported having a gun in the house. As SGN readers would probably suspect, a full 62 percent of those respondents felt the U.S. government represented a threat to their freedoms.

So who likes the government? Only 34 percent of liberal Democrats regard the government as any kind of threat, with just 13 percent seeing it as a major threat. Hispanic Americans were most trusting of government, with 44 percent trusting it all or most of the time. That was even higher than blacks, 38 percent of whom expressed similar faith in government; whites, 20 percent.

People in general have expressed declining faith in the government—and, for that matter, in other large institutions—for many years; the exception being a patriotic surge right after the 9/11 attacks. Most would expect small-government conservatives to be the most skeptical, but it seems your confidence in government depends a lot on who’s running it: During the second George W. Bush term, liberal Democrats were much angrier at government than conservative Republicans are today.

A healthy distrust of government in part of the American creed, but if the reservoir of trust is drained too low, you get Yugoslavia circa 1990, and all kidding aside, we don’t want to go there.

Here’s my recommendation if government wants gun owners to be less angry and more trusting. Keep your mitts off our guns.

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