Poll: Most Americans Feel Threatened By Government

For the first time, a national survey finds most Americans feel threatened by government.

New York City police grab at protesters during a mass arrest on the Brooklyn Bridge, Oct. 1, 2011. Police allowed approximately 700 people onto the bridge before surrounding and arresting them all.

New York police grab at protesters during a mass arrest on the Brooklyn Bridge, Oct. 1, 2011. Police allowed around 700 people onto the bridge before surrounding and arresting them all.

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A new survey from Pew Research Center finds more than half of Americans believe the government threatens their personal rights.

The national survey, conducted in mid-January, marks the first time a majority viewed the government as a threat since Pew began tracking public opinion on the subject in 1995.

This year 53 percent of the poll's respondents answered 'yes' when asked if the federal government "threatens your personal rights and freedoms." This year's poll also found more people viewed the government as a "major threat" than ever before.

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All of the survey's highest perceptions of the threat of government have come since President Barack Obama took office in 2009.

The survey was conducted from January 9-13, as Obama was about to begin his second term by pushing for reform of the nation's gun laws in the wake of the shooting at a Connecticut elementary school late last year. Of those who have guns in their homes, 62 percent viewed the government as a threat, up five percentage points from 2010.

However, the survey found negative feelings towards the government as a whole, and Congress in particular, are widespread.

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Respondents of all political affiliations felt more threatened this year than in 2010, when 47 percent felt threatened overall.

And 75 percent of those surveyed said they don't trust the government to "do the right thing" most of the time, if at all, a sentiment which held true across all ideologies and demographics. A similar consensus—68 percent—found Congress to be unfavorable, and majorities of Republicans, Democrats, and independents believed Congress' problem was not its political system as a whole, but its individual members.

Though some unhappiness was nonpartisan, the poll results show Republicans and conservatives are most upset with the state of the American political system.

(Pew Research Center)

A full 70 percent of those who identified as Republican felt threatened by the government, compared to just 38 percent of Democrats.

Republicans also have more anger towards the federal government since Obama took office. Nearly a third of respondents identifying as conservative said they were angry with government in this year's survey, while only 6 percent of that same group felt angry while George W. Bush was president in 2006.

The opposite is true of those identifying as Democrats and liberals, who were angrier during the Bush administration (though still less angry than their counterparts have been in the Obama years).

Pew polled about 1,500 adults in all 50 states and the District of Columbia for the survey.

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