‘Big Government’ More Vexing Than ‘Big Business’

NEW YORK As the debate over healthcare reform goes on (and on and on), the perils of “big business” and “big government” are brandished by advocates pro and con. Which of these two do Americans regard as the more serious menace? In an Economist/YouGov poll conducted at the end of August and beginning of September, respondents were more apt to be wary of big government.

Asked to say which is “more of a threat,” 62 percent of respondents cited big government, while 38 percent fingered big business. There were some significant variations among different population segments. The most predictable split was the one along partisan lines. Sixty-six percent of Democrats in the survey said they regard big business as more of a threat. Ninety-one percent of the Republicans said big government is the greater menace. Independents sided (though not in such landslide numbers) with the Republicans on this, as 61 percent identified big government as the more worrisome of the two choices.

Race and ethnicity were also dividing lines on this matter. While a majority of white respondents cited big government as the bigger threat (66 percent), a similar-sized majority of their black counterparts (63 percent) said big business is. Among Hispanic respondents, 56 percent said big government is the greater threat.

You might expect the poll’s upper-income respondents to be more pro-business than the lower-income cohort, but income turned out not to be a significant point of division. While 59 percent of those in the $100,000-plus bracket said big government is more of a threat, so did 65 percent of those in the $40,000-99,999 range and 62 percent of those in the under-$40,000 cohort.

Nor was there much variation in the attitudes of different age groups on this question. Fifty-nine percent of the poll’s 18-29-year-olds were more worried about big government, as were 64 percent of the 30-64-year-olds and 61 percent of those 65 and older.