New polling from the Pew Research Center reveals that the number of Republicans who believe the government should “take care of people who can’t take care of themselves” has dropped precipitously over the past two decades, a decline that speaks to a broader — and growing — skepticism from within the GOP regarding the role for government in people’s lives.

House Speaker John Boehner, a Republican from Ohio, holds a news conference following a Republican Conference meeting at the Capitol in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Thursday, May 31, 2012. (Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg)

Support among independents for that view of government has declined over that time period as well, though far less deeply than it has among GOPers. Support among Democrats has stayed static.

Here’s a chart from Pew that spells it out:


That’s not the only number from the Pew data that makes clear the dim (and getting dimmer) view that Republicans take to the government and its role.

Nearly eight in 10 Republicans now believe that, “when something is run by the government, it is usually inefficient and wasteful,” up from 65 percent who agreed with that sentiment in 1987. Democrats have gone in the opposite direction; 59 percent agreed with the idea that screws up what it touches back in 1987, while just 41 percent said the same in the most recent numbers.


As always, context matters. Back in 1987, the popular Ronald Reagan was finishing his second term as president — making it more likely that Republicans would be willing to say supportive things about the role for and of the federal government. Twenty-five years later, a Democratic president occupies the White House, a fact that almost certainly colors the view Republicans (and Democrats) take of the government’s role and efficacy.

Still, the Pew numbers speak to a running debate between the two parties about the proper place for government in society — a conversation in which Democrats and Republicans seem to have less and less in common.

Remember that as recently as 1996 — in his State of the Union speech — President Bill Clinton, a Democrat, famously declared: “The era of big government is over.”

The 2000s were filled with events — the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, Hurricane Katrina in 2005 — that made people (Democrats, Republicans and Independents) more open to the idea that government should play an active role in American life.

But by the latter part of that decade, things like the auto bailout, the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) and the Wall Street bailout had made people suspicious (again) of government and its ability to effect positive change in their lives.

That suspicion led to the growth of the tea party in the wake of the 2008 election and its apex in the 2010 midterms, when Republicans picked up more than 60 House seats thanks to a national message heavy on the idea that Democrats thought government was the solution to all the problems facing the country.

Republicans’ successes in that election leaked over into the 2012 presidential fight in which Texas Gov. Rick Perry — to name just one — made the idea of a part-time Congress a central pillar of his campaign. And they leaked over to Congress, where the Republican leadership — mindful of angering the newly elected tea party members — fought President Obama’s attempt to raise the debt ceiling with disastrous consequences for both sides.

What the Pew numbers confirm is that the Republican party sees less and less value in government even as the Democratic party values it either equally or more than they did 25 years ago.

Those trend lines for the two parties won’t meet anytime soon, which makes the prospect of bipartisan cooperation in the post-election phase decidedly unlikely. And that’s bad news for the country.

Romney says Walker win will ‘echo’ nationwide: Mitt Romney said Wednesday that Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s (R) recall victory is a mandate for austerity that will “echo throughout the country.”

“People in what many have considered a blue state… said, ‘We’ve seen a conservative governor, he cut back on the scale of government and has held down taxes and stood up to the public sector unions, and we want more of that, not less of it,’” Romney said at an event in San Antonio.

Romney added: “The union members, they’ll support us. Without the union members who support our campaign and support conservative principles, we wouldn’t have Scott Walker win in Wisconsin if that weren’t the case.”

Exit polls showed that, while Barrett won a huge victory among union members, Walker nearly tied him among people who live with union members.


Sheldon Adelson is preparing to give at least $1 million to Romney’s super PAC.

Obama has held twice as many fundraisers as George W. Bush did at this point eight years ago.

Jeb Bush suggests he might not have performed well in this year’s Republican presidential primary.

Romney’s Hispanic Steering Committee includes several supporters of the DREAM Act.

It looks like Rick Santorum is launching a new 501(c)(4).

A new Quinnipiac University poll in Virginia shows state Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli leading Lt. Gov. Bill Boling 51 percent to 15 percent in the state’s 2013 GOP governor primary.

Meanwhile, a Q poll in Connecticut shows Rep. Chris Murphy (D) leading GOPer Linda McMahon (R) by just 3 percentage points.

The National Republican Congressional Committee is launching a petition calling for a repeal of Obamacare in advance of the Supreme Court’s ruling on the legislation.


In Wisconsin recall, the side with most money won big” — Dan Eggen, Washington Post

Obama’s Cabinet members mix policy, politics” — Darren Samuelsohn, Politico

California’s new setup a hurdle for Democrats’ bid to retake House” — Jean Merl and Richard Simon, Los Angeles Times

Conservatives and Romney work at working together” — Laurie Kellman, AP

IE Strategy Borders on Art Form” — Nathan L. Gonzales, Roll Call

Restrictive voting laws tied up in court” — Krissah Thompson, Washington Post