An electorate than thinks government does too much, except for all the areas in which it does too little

Today’s Essential Research poll highlights the perils of trying to draw any specific policy conclusions from public opinion on high-level questions.

First, its respondents were asked about the size of government, and the answer suggested that perhaps a large number of voters had suddenly converted to classical liberalism:

But more specific questions suggest that the vague feeling that governments are too big does not translate into wanting government to do less in key areas of activity. In every proposition put to the Essential respondents, a plurality wanted the government to do more, and in most clear majorities wanted the government to do more. The 44% of respondents who earlier in the survey had thought government did too much shrank to a constituency of between 1% and 10%.

This is why governments have so much trouble cutting spending, and why genuine ‘tough budgets’ are very rare.

  1. Well, it’s also hard to draw any specific policy conclusions from public opinion on even the lower-level questions. All these people say they want government to do more in these areas. Yet if you asked them whether the government wastes much money in health or transport or education, I’ll bet there’ll be a similar high proportion who say yes.

  2. It was always thus.

    On a warm fuzzy level people want smaller government but on specific issues they want larger government.

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