More voters are opposing government spending in the abstract, but they apparently still favor it when it benefits them personally and on a local level. New polling from the Washington Post and the Kaiser Family Foundation reveals the public’s schizophrenia on the role of government. While Americans have “a more negative view of government today than they did a decade ago,” they still want the government to be involved in their own lives, the Post reports:
[M]ost Americans who say they want more limited government also call Social Security and Medicare “very important.” They want Washington to be involved in schools and to help reduce poverty. Nearly half want the government to maintain a role in regulating health care.
Chris Cilizza also flags the finding that a strong majority want their own member of Congress to bring home the bacon:
Fifty-seven percent of those polled said they wanted their own Congressman to “fight for more government spending in your congressional district, in order to create jobs” while 39 percent said they preferred their member of Congress to “fight” government spending even if it means fewer jobs in their district. A majority of independents (52 percent) said they preferred their congressman to focus on local spending to create jobs.
Such attitudes could have given Democrats an opportunity to undercut the tea party right’s wide-ranging, anti-government animus, by drilling down to the specifics of how their major legislative milestone—the stimulus, health care reform, the Wall Street overhaul—actually help local districts and voters. But only in recent weeks have the Democrats even begun to hammer their Republican opponents on issues like Social Security, having spent most of the election cycle trying to distance themselves as much as possible from their own accomplishments.