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Poll: A Record Number of Americans Say Government 'Should Do More'

A record number of Americans now say that the government should do more — not less — in order to solve the nation’s problems.
Image: Congressional Majority In Question As Election Nears
The Senate side of the US Capitol is shown October 11, 2016 in Washington D.C. House and Senate Republicans are in a close race with Democrats to keep control of both houses of Congress.Mark Wilson / Getty Images

In November, voters gave control of the White House and Capitol Hill to the party traditionally associated with reducing the size of government. But now, a record number of Americans say that the government should do more — not less — in order to solve the nation’s problems.

A new NBC News/ Wall Street Journal poll finds 57 percent of the public saying that the government should do more to solve problems and meet the needs of Americans, versus 39 percent who said the government is doing too many things better left to businesses and individuals.

That’s the highest share yearning for a more active government since the poll began asking voters about the role of government in 1995. And it’s a significant shift even since 2015, when 50 percent said that the government should do more while 46 percent complained that it was too active.

NBC News

The shift also comes after a political campaign that saw party orthodoxy upended on both sides of the aisle.

As the Republican presidential nominee last year, Donald Trump defied the traditional GOP promise of federal belt-tightening, defending government programs like Social Security and Medicaid and pledging a massive infrastructure plan. Candidate Bernie Sanders won unexpected momentum during the Democratic primary by trumpeting his support for a single-payer health care plan, expanded Social Security and tuition-free public college.

Americans of all political stripes have trended towards a more active government in the past few years, but the shifts have been particularly significant among independents and Republicans.

NBC News

For example, in October 2010, 17 percent of Republicans said that the government should do more, while 79 percent said it was doing too much. In the latest poll, the share of Republicans saying that government should do more is up to 28 percent, while 69 percent say it does too much.

The net change for independents is even more dramatic. In 2010, independents favored a less active government by 22 percentage points. This year? They favor a more active government by the same share.