One of the classic works in political science was Gabriel Almond and Sydney Verba's book The Civic Culture. Published in the 1960s, the work compared public attitudes towards government in various countries.
The authors' thesis was that countries where the government enjoyed a great deal of public confidence – the United States and Great Britain – would have an easier time of it than countries where public opinion viewed the government as malevolent or corrupt, as in Italy and Mexico at that time.
A Gallup poll published this week, consistent with other polls taken in the last couple of months, demonstrates that the American public's confidence in the government has nosedived to alarming proportions.
Congress, evenly divided between Democratic control of the Senate and Republican control of the House, earns 82 percent disapproval; 69 percent have little or no confidence in the legislative branch. This is an all-time high, surpassing the 63 percent in 2010.
The poll results showed that 57 percent have little or no confidence in the federal government's ability to solve domestic problems.
In addition, 53 percent have little or no confidence in the men and women who seek or hold elected office.
While Americans have viewed federal government waste as proverbial they now believe that the government wastes 51 cents on every tax dollar compared with a low of $.38 in 1986 during the Reagan era..
A whopping 49 percent of Americans believe that a gigantic federal government poses a threat to their rights and freedoms. In 2003 this view was shared by less than a third of the population.
When Gallup asked Americans in August to rate various sectors of industry and the federal government, the federal government scored the lowest with a - 46 net positive rating (the difference between those who gave a positive rating and those giving a negative rating. The federal government ranked even lower than the oil and gas industry and the legal profession, two sectors that have drawn the ire of American public opinion.
The polls demonstrate that voters for the Democratic Party, traditionally the party favoring more government intervention, have a more benevolent view of government, but this is only as compared to Republicans. The trend even amongst Democrats points to greater suspicion of government.
Public confidence in the federal government's ability to handle foreign policy problems remains significantly higher.
Two takeaways from the polls:
One, if the Almond and Verba thesis is correct, governing in the United States is becoming much more difficult precisely at a time when some expect the government to intervene more in solving problems.
Second, the Democrats, traditionally identified as a party of big government, should view the polls as a portent that the political climate is getting less favorable.