Only 17% Say Government Has Consent of the Public

One needs to take polls from Rasmussen with a smidge of salt, since Rasmussen is the preferred pollster for the right wing. But the way to goose survey results is to ask questions that are leading, but “leading” can be done in very subtle ways. For instance, saying “What do you think of the job Obama is doing” will elicit lower approval scores than “What do you think of the job Obama is doing as President?” The addition of “as President” enhances his stature and emphasizes the difficulty of the role.

If you read the Rasmussen survey instrument, the money question comes after two questions which imply strong skepticism of government. Nevertheless, Rasmussen has been conducting this sort of poll over time, so changes in sentiment are still germane. Pollster Pat Caddell said via-email “unprecedented…pre-revolutionary.” The poll was taken August 1-2, before the US debt downgrade. The results:

A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that just 17% of Likely U.S. Voters think the federal government today has the consent of the governed. Sixty-nine percent (69%) believe the government does not have that consent. Fourteen percent (14%) are undecided.

The number of voters who feel the government has the consent of the governed – a foundational principle, contained in the Declaration of Independence – is down from 23% in early May and has fallen to its lowest level measured yet.

Perhaps it’s no surprise voters feel this way since only eight percent (8%) believe the average member of Congress listens to his or her constituents more than to their party leaders. That, too, is the lowest level measured to date. Eighty-four percent (84%) think the average congressman listens to party leaders more than the voters they represent.

Voter approval of the job Congress is doing has fallen to a new low – for the second month in a row. Only six percent (6%) now rate Congress’ performance as good or excellent.

One intriguing finding in another recent is how much voters disapprove of their own Congressmen:

Most voters still lack confidence even in their own local Congress member . Given a choice between keeping the entire Congress or picking a new one and starting over, most voters want to dump all the incumbents.

In that survey, the question about their local representative was worded in a pretty neutral manner and came first. And this is significant because voters often say they hate Congress generally but like their own representatives.

Caddell has often highlighted another finding: the yawning gap between the perceptions of the political elite and the rest of the country:

Fifty-five percent (55%) of the Political Class , on the other hand, feel the government does have the consent of the governed. Seventy-seven percent (77%) of Mainstream voters disagree.

Most voters across the demographic board believe the average congressman listens to their party leaders more than the people they represent.

Those voters apparently didn’t need to read Tom Ferguson explain how the pay to play system increases the control of party leaders; they can see the results themselves. What a concept, that the public can actually figure out that it is being sold out by its elected officials.

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  1. Ned Ludd

    After Gabrielle Giffords was shot, Daily Kos had PPP conduct a poll that asked, among other questions, “Do you think violence against the current American government is justified or not?”. The results for young people were pretty shocking. 17% of respondents age 18-29 felt violence against the government was justified. In contrast, only 3% of people age 30-65 felt violence was justified, as did 8% of people over 65.

  2. psychohistorian

    The big question coming is what the “revolution” will look like.

    Will it be the seminal Shock Doctrine moment or the beginning of the end of global inherited wealth’s control of everyone and ownership of everything?

    Or somewhere in between?

    And yes, my question to MMT folks. I know you think your theory will work well in any of those situations, but IMO if you don’t establish who owns that money at the onset of your theory implementation how is it really going to work?

    Onward into the breach……

  3. anjon

    As bad as Ras numbers can be, i think there is some credibility to these results. Left/Right/Center, the entire political system is out of touch. In fact, in many cases, it’s the “centrists” who are the most out of touch with the anger in the “hinterlands”.

    For instance, many of the “centrist compromises” we get are “worst of both world” corporatist schemes that give us the worst of the left and the right. At the base level, the public sees the following set of scenarios: When we raise taxes, everyone except the connected rich -with their loopholes – get hit. When we “cut government”, the rich/connected miraculously find ways to make sure the iron fist of the state is there for what they need. Works the other way too: bailouts go disproportionately to the banks, and tax cuts go almost entirely to the wealthy. The feelings of the (rightly) cynical public is that the system is so rigged, it doesn’t matter what policy you implement, the powerful have the system rigged so the outcome always benefits them.

    1. Cato

      You are correct. Problem is, this is not a flaw in the system. This is a flaw in life. There is absolutely no way to control it completely. You can tamp it down temporarily, you can shake it up so that the underdogs become the overdogs and vice versa. But even then, many of the old overdogs will, miraculously, land amongst the new overdogs.

      The beauty of capitalism is that it assumes that everybody is a greedy bastard looking out mostly for his or her own interest. Rather than fruitlessly (and inevitably, murderously) try to eliminate greed or privilege, it harnesses that greed for the greater good.

  4. Middle Seaman

    The safest conclusion from the Rasmussen survey is to ignore them altogether. One can accept the spirit of the results qualitatively. What is missing is the role of the media and how people see it.

  5. Jonathan Versen

    One needs to take polls from Rasmussen with a smidge of salt, since Rasmussen is the preferred pollster for the right wing.

    I’ve sensed a right wing tilt from Rasmussen for some time; nice to know I’m not the only person who has noticed.

  6. nonclassical

    Americans have been misdirected by LIES for so long-lies about torture, internationally illegal invasions, terrorism, TARP bailouts, scapegoating of teachers, schools, immigrants, state and union employees. Nothing with cure this country but transparency, oversight, accountability. U.S. media, political system, and most particularly corporate contributors
    will have none of that..
    If our leaders won’t tell us those truths, and supply transparency, oversight, accountability, we need to tell one another, just as we see on Yves’ forum nightly, and elect leaders who will.

    1. attempter

      If our leaders won’t tell us those truths, and supply transparency, oversight, accountability, we need to…elect leaders who will.

      Too funny. And when those Leaders turn out to be the same, because they too are, um, Leaders, then what?

  7. okie farmer

    Government as an ongoing criminal enterprise has been around since the beginnings of human civilization. One of my favorite movies is Kurosawa’s ‘Seven Samurai’ in which he posits institutional violence as the organizing principle of social organization. The 7 samurai offer their services to ancient peasant village as protectors against bandits who pillage the village at least once every year right after the harvest. The village is anarchic but is finally convinced to take the samurai up on their offer despite warnings from elders that they will be trading “new bandits” for their old enemies. The village hire the samurai as police who extract rents that are less than the bandits. Govt is born.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      I love Kurosawa.

      My favorite scene is another image of lawlessness, the beginning of Yojimbo.

      It has a low angle shot, the camera is basically at ground level, looking down a long street of houses (they all have steps up to the entry level).

      A little dog runs towards the camera. As he gets closer, you can see he is carrying something in his mouth.

      It is a human hand.

    2. ambrit

      You have to view Yojimbo along with Sanjuro, (a sequel of sorts,) wherin Kurosawa makes explicit the violent nature of the ‘conservative’ social contract. The bodyguard gives the young ‘elites’ a visceral education in the costs of their ideals.
      My favourite Kurosawa film is the vastly underrated “Dodes Kaden.”

    3. Anonymous Jones

      Seven Samurai is just a stunning film. If there is such a thing as wisdom, it is on full display in that film.

      Of course, I love when the samurai turn violent upon the community defectors and make them toe-the-line for the common defense (not so much because I love violence, but because it so deftly shows the difficult realities of living as a community in a less-than-ideal world).

      As an aside, my other favorite scene is when one of the farmers comes back to the elder after seeking out the four samurai the elder had suggested. The farmer starts apologizing profusely and saying they got seven samurai instead of four because Kambei insisted that the village would need seven. The elder sits back and rubs his chin, [paraphrasing] “Hmm, seven? I would have thought we needed ten. But if I told you ten, you would have come back with fifteen.”

  8. BondsOfSteel

    There is huge discontent on both the left and the right.

    On the right, a lot of people feel the bailouts were a huge move toward socialism. (I don’t understand this, it’s a move toward Corporatocracy.) Dodd-Frank came up short of holding people accountiable.

    On the left, is the feeling of broken hope. Change was promised, but not fully delivered.

      1. Peter T

        Foppe, what’s your problem with BondsOfSteel?
        Left: We who disagree with the corporate message are necessarily on the left in this relative conservative country.
        Not fully delivered: We can’t expect our visions to become law in a one-to-one fashion.

        What is up to discussion is if the low degree to which that promised change has been delivered is due to the opposition’s push-back or due to insufficient pushing. While I tended to emphasize the former until the end of 2010, developments in 2011 have convinced me to see the problem more with the latter.

        1. ambrit

          Mr T;
          I think that Foppe is defining Left as a philosophical construct, not an amorphous ‘social’ movement. In other words, he’s adhering to rational values, and rejecting relativism. I’m with him on this, if you hadn’t guessed.

          1. Peter T

            “Right” and “Left” are historically the opposing sides in legislatures (that develop nearly automatically from within the larger groups). You could reject history and affirm theory by affixing “Left” only to certain groups, e.g., Marx-inspired political groups, but it seems to me that would loose more than win by this maneuver – you loose for example, the populist movements in America’s history that had very little Marxist doctrine.

      2. BondsOfSteel

        The article was about the electorate.

        ‘Right’ would imply the americans who voted for McCain. ‘Left’ would imply the majority of americans who voted for Obama.

  9. Peter T

    The feeling that government is broken is a problem more for Democrats/Progressives than for Republicans/Tea Partiers. Haven’t the latter said all along that government is the problem, and now they have shown it (starting latest with George W Bush)? While Democrats/Progressives need a functioning government to do more than only law enforcement, the enemy of governments can continue to weaken it further. I expect another push for term limits that shift the balance of power further from lawmakers to lobbyists and financial interests.

    1. Foppe

      Haven’t the latter said all along that government is the problem,

      No, they didn’t always believe this (at least not to the extent that they do now), it is something the GOP started to really push under Reagan. And the way they helped this sentiment along was by constantly appointing directors that were either hostile to the agency they would be directing, or hostile to ‘government interference’ in general, while at the same time defunding as many agencies as they could through Congress. Which in turn allowed them to claim ‘hey look, the govt is broken’. Well duh — but it worked amazingly well for them.

      1. Yves Smith Post author

        Yes, the SEC and the FDA were once respected and competent agencies. No more.

        1. ambrit

          Indeed, if Rasmussen can be trusted, this lack of respect now applies to government as an organizing principle, through a false correlation. Public service has now become public servicing.

    2. attempter

      The feeling that government is broken is a problem more for Democrats/Progressives than for Republicans/Tea Partiers. Haven’t the latter said all along that government is the problem, and now they have shown it (starting latest with George W Bush)?

      Now I better understand your comments above on “left-right”. You care only about the problems of the the political class swine, not the real people. (That’s why “left” is merely a relative term to be applied wherever convenient, to help drum up false equivalences, no doubt among equal and opposite “extremes”. But the fact is that there is no Left anymore. That’s part of why the old left-right spectrum no longer has any validity, if it ever did. By now it’s just a scam, as you admit above.)

      While this is indeed a problem for the elitists, for the people to realize the illegitimacy of this government is a necessary and progressive (using that as an English language term, not in the Orwellian political sense) step toward their self-liberation.

      BTW, the Reps and tea partiers have never shown anything but that they want government to become ever bigger and more aggressive, but only on behalf of the rich and big corporations. By now Dems/”progressives” want the same thing, as their actions have also proven.

      1. Peter T

        “You care only about the problems of the the political class swine, not the real people.”

        1. You don’t know me that well.
        2. Calling a whole groups of people swine is disgusting.

        No further comment.

        1. psychohistorian

          Ah, the pearl clutching over strong words. Do we need to make a list of the words we can’t use and direct them toward?

          I call myself part of pond scum on occasion to incite folks. It reflects clearly to me how the masses are being treated and I WANT to incite folks.

          Are their groups of people that do or do not deserve being called one thing or another. If not now, when? We are at a watershed, FINALLY in our system of governance and lots of words are being used and misused passionately. Does it improve discourse? When you have a big lie media on one side of the equation and us pond scum on the other it does get a bit challenging to break through the big lie stuff without passion and the language that comes with it.

          Lets go back to the name calling of our “elected” representatives. It seems evident to me having watched this societal criminality for the past 40+ years and hearing ex Republican Gov. Dan Evans (who would be considered a DFH in today’s world) come away from one term in the Senate saying negative things about the participants in general and refusing to go back, that perhaps negative generalizations are fairly accurate and the exceptions make themselves very clearly known.

          We don’t need more pearl clutching. We need people that speak truth to the power that unjustly rules us in any way that moves them and others to throw of the yoke we find ourselves under, IMO.

        2. attempter

          I feel like I’ve known you all my life from just a few comments. I’ve seen enough of your kind for many lifetimes.

          And what’s truly disgusting is the refusal, out of cowardice and/or identifying with them, to call criminal swine what they are.

  10. pj

    When someone says they will do one thing if you elect them, and they end up doing the exact opposite after being elected, even a fool will know he’s been fooled.

    That, in a nutshell, is why the citizenry doesn’t trust its government, or either political party.

    Despite all attempts to convince the citizenry otherwise, black is not white and up is not down – and we know it.

  11. abcx

    We need a clip of the Yes Minister skit where Sir Humprey shows Bernard how to get contradictory answers from the same survey respondent depending on how questions are phrased. British TV at its best.

  12. rps

    Escape From the Asylum
    Watching the debt crisis, a former congresswoman yearns for a lost bipartisan era.
    “I watch the dysfunction in Congress with dismay. I served there for nine terms ……
    Many new colleagues and former constituents ask me when and why Congress became so broken. My answer: the breakdown started in the 1980s, when politicians began to value winning elections and building single-party majorities over responsible governance.”

    Jane Harmon’s point, today’s politics is about re-elections, not governance. “The new order of incivility began when Republican operative Lee Atwater began to deploy negative ads” and “Newt Gingrich and his “Contract On America” became the winner-take-all mentality. That was the change in governance. There was less contact between the parties, and more partisan votes. It was “my way or the highway.”

    The playbook of Lee Atwater, and self-serving thugs Newt Gingrich, Trent Lott, Karl Rove, and Jack Abramoff poisoned politics and crippled bipartisan governance.

  13. bath water

    Before Ob*ma is run out of town, he will have allowed 100 million single Chinese men from Communist China to immigrate here and he will allow ALL Mexicans to cross the border freely.

  14. solo

    (1) Polling a marginalized, passive, and uninformed citizenry is as about as scientifically useful as asking a bird about avionics. (2) Have the polling geniuses thought to ask whether the poor dull wee polls (pardon the pun) think that the corporate capitalist elite–our real rulers–have the “consent of the governed”? (3) News flash: Real citizens (see R. Nader on “civic virtue”) know what they are thinking because they take seriously the duty of rational, moral discourse among themselves. Real citizens do not need the corrupt and corrupting middleman of polling a la USA; recognizing same merely another expression of the Public Relations con artistry that passes for political discourse in contemporary America, and which requires so much capitalist largesse (a.k.a. campaign contributions) for its passage through that lower intestine of the public mind known as the corporate media.

  15. MountainHome

    I am sure things are going to become worse over the rest of the week. It doesn’t look encouraging for any of us.

    “Pre-revolution” who would have thought?? There’s a new book just out about a small town that takes a stand against federal tyranny and ends up starting the 2nd American Revolution. It’s a thriller and current so I recommend it. It’s about each of us taking a stand for our future.

    Like Moody’s, I am not confident the congress/president can do enough spending cuts. It’s not Red/Blue or Left/Right all of D.C. corruption & no representation.

  16. John Matson

    Rough seas ahead. Liberals will go overboard first. There’s no one left to badger and coerce into paying your way for you. Bye.

  17. Hairy Putter

    glad to see so many thoughtful and mostly ‘thinking’ brains here posting mostly GOOD commentary :)

    the Daily KOTEX and the DINOCRAPPIC UNDERWEAR blogs are out there hawking the VICTORY that O’token achieved by selling the nation unto the Rothschilds banksters even moreso than the last pile of merde in the Whore House did.

    good that so many are awake. ditch the party affiliations and become AMERICANS for once in your sorry lives, and then see what that achieves as it gets rid of the DIVIDE AND CONQUER strategy the scum that be like to use to keep us at each other’s throats.

    good work! and remember, the so called progressive blogosphere, e.g.: Daily KOTEX and DINOCRAPPIC UNDERWEAR are shill sites for the scum who wanted this CIA puppet installed in the first place. Always remember that.

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