The terms “liberal” and “conservative,” in at least the American political usage, were always mushy. But, to a considerable extent, they seemed to come down to the question of “do you want the government to do more or do less?”
The “do more” option traditionally carried the baggage of higher taxes, especially on the more affluent, to pay for more spending to help people, especially the less-affluent. And it obviously taps into a longstanding American fear of “big government.”
Perhaps the pandemic has changed that assumption, as a much larger portion of the population is looking to the government to deal with it.
At least for the moment, recent polling by Fox News and Ipsos shows that the number of Americans — Democrats, Republicans and independents — who say they want the government to do more has shot up significantly.
Obviously, this could easily be explained away as a short-term response to the pandemic. Although there is evidence in the trend lines on the Fox poll that the desire for government to do more to help people was heading upward before the full COVID effect.
The breakdown by party identification is predictable. Far more Democrats say, and always have said, that they want the government to lend a hand. Far more Republicans than Democrats say they want to be left alone.
But in the most recent survey, the portion of Republicans who want government to lend them a hand has shot up more steeply than among Democrats. And, for the first time ever, the portion of Republicans who want the government leave them alone plummeted from the upper 70s to below 50.
Self-described independents, naturally, fall between those who identify with one of the major parties.
By the way, if you do click through, don’t be put off by the headline, which focuses on so-called “cancel culture.” That’s really not the point of the piece.
As I mentioned, an Ipsos poll, showing that from 2019 to 2020 to the portion of Americans who think the government should do more to help them with their problems jumped up by 7 percentage points, is viewable here.