Americans skeptical of government, more politically engaged, poll finds

Majorities of Americans expressed concern about government surveillance and the influence of unelected officials on g...

Posted: Mar 19, 2018 1:52 PM
Updated: Mar 19, 2018 1:52 PM

Majorities of Americans expressed concern about government surveillance and the influence of unelected officials on government policy in a new poll released Monday by Monmouth University.

The poll also found growing levels of political engagement since the 2016 election cycle kicked off.

Monmouth found that 23% of Americans are very worried and 30% are somewhat worried about government monitoring and invasion of privacy, and that concern cuts across partisan lines. Majorities of independents (57%), Republicans (51%) and Democrats (50%) expressed some level of worry. Overall, 46% said they weren't too worried or weren't worried at all.

Regardless of concern, a vast majority -- 8 in 10 -- believe that the US government does currently monitor the activities of American citizens, with 53% saying it's widespread and 29% saying that it happens but is not widespread. Just 14% of Americans believe the US government is not spying on citizens at all.

Asked about the influence of unelected officials on government policy, 6 in 10 said they have too much influence, while just 26% said there was an appropriate balance with elected leaders.

Monmouth also surveyed opinions on the "deep state" specifically, referred to in the poll as "a group of unelected government and military officials who secretly manipulate or direct national policy." Most Americans said they were unfamiliar with the term (63%), while about a quarter (24%) said they were somewhat familiar and just 13% said they were very familiar.

When given the above description of the "deep state" and asked whether such a group exists, 27% said definitely, 47% said probably and the remainder were unsure or skeptical.

In a curious example of cross-partisanship, the Monmouth poll found that belief in the existence of the "deep state" was highest among nonwhites and National Rifle Association members.

The Monmouth poll also measured growing levels of political engagement among the American public since the 2016 presidential election. Today, 36% say they think it's very important for them to get personally involved in politics, up from 25% a few years ago, while those who said it was not important at all declined from 17% to 13%.

Furthermore, 37% said they have become more active in politics since President Donald Trump took office, compared with 6% who said they'd been less active and 56% who expressed no change. A constant during that time -- anger at Washington. Twenty-two percent expressed anger and 59% expressed dissatisfaction with Washington, consistent with Monmouth polling back to September 2016.

The Monmouth University poll surveyed 803 adults by telephone from March 2 through March 5. The poll's margin of error is plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.

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