Is America becoming a 'socialist state'? 40 percent say yes.
The perception that America is turning more socialist is not just a fringe view, according to a Monitor/TIPP poll. Debate over the size of government could influence November elections.
Two of every five Americans today say their country is evolving into a socialist state.Skip to next paragraph
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That finding, contained in a new nationwide poll, highlights a central debate in the 2012 election campaign and a major challenge for President Obama.
The "socialist state" survey is just one many indicators that Americans are worried that the federal government is growing too large – a feeling that works against Mr. Obama's reelection hopes.
In a Christian Science Monitor/Investor's Business Daily/TIPP poll completed last week, 40 percent of respondents generally agreed with the statement: "The US is evolving into a socialist state." That outnumbered the 36 percent who disagreed. About one-quarter of respondents expressed a neutral view or said they were unsure.
The same poll asked other questions that took America's temperature on the size of government. A majority said it should not be the government's role to redistribute wealth, and a majority said they prefer "a smaller government providing less services."
Those results, taken together, indicate an opening for Obama's Republican challenger, Mitt Romney. He's trying to seize it.
"This old-style liberalism of bigger and bigger government and bigger and bigger taxes has got to end, and we will end it in November," Mr. Romney said at a campaign event in Colorado Tuesday.
Of course, there are plenty of voters who don't view Obama as a socialist. And anxiety about big government is just one of many feelings affecting voters, some of which cut in opposing directions. To cite just one example, Americans favor Democrats more than Republicans when it comes to dealing with health care, even though that's an area where Obama's policies represent a major expansion of government's financial and regulatory reach.
But with polls currently showing a tight race, the issue could be an important one in determining the winner come November.
According to the poll, some 30 percent of Americans "strongly agreed" with the view that the US is evolving toward socialism, while another 10 percent agreed somewhat. Some 50 percent of Republicans and 30 percent of independents held that view, compared with only 15 percent of Democrats. The poll didn't ask whether people thought evolving toward a socialist state is good or bad.
But is that view correct?
For his part, Obama rejects it. "No, I don’t believe the government is the answer to all our problems," Obama said last month in an economic speech in Ohio. "But I do share the belief of our first Republican president, from my home state – Abraham Lincoln – that through government, we should do together what we cannot do as well for ourselves."