Many Say Government Now Operating Outside the Constitution

Source:  Rasmussen Report

Voters are clearly dubious about the size and scope of today?s federal government.

A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that just 39% of Likely U.S. Voters believe the federal government currently operates within the limits established by the Constitution of the United States.

Forty-four percent (44%) disagree and say it is not functioning within those limits, while another 17% aren?t sure. (To see survey question wording, click here.)

Earlier surveys have shown that just one-in-five voters believe that the government today has the consent of the governed. Forty-eight percent (48%) see the government as a threat to individual rights. According to the Declaration of Independence, governments are formed to protect certain inalienable rights.

Most Americans think the Constitution is just fine the way it is and should be left alone. But 39% say the governing document doesn?t put enough restrictions on what the government can do.

As is often the case, there?s a wide gap between the perceptions of the Political Class and those of Mainstream voters when it comes to the federal government. Eighty-three percent (83%) of Political Class voters say the government now operates within constitutional limits, but 62% of those in the Mainstream don?t share that view.

One aspect of the Constitution that is frequently challenged is its protection for freedom of speech. But 85% of voters say, generally speaking, that the constitutional protection of speech is a good thing for the United States. Only six percent (6%) disagree.

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The survey of 1,000 Likely Voters was conducted on November 21-22, 2010 by Rasmussen Reports. The margin of sampling error is +/- 3 percentage points with a 95% level of confidence. Field work for all Rasmussen Reports surveys is conducted by Pulse Opinion Research, LLC. See methodology.

Nearly two-out-of-three voters (65%) are at least somewhat angry at the current policies of the federal government, including 40% who are Very Angry.

Sixty-one percent (61%) of Democrats say the federal government currently is operating within the limits established by the Constitution. Holding the opposite view, 65% of Republicans and 52% of voters not affiliated with either of the major parties do not believe the government is functioning within constitutional bounds.

But all three groups agree overwhelmingly that the constitutional protection of freedom of speech is a good thing.

Sixty-six percent (66%) of political conservatives say today?s federal government is out-of-bounds constitutionally, but 66% of liberals disagree. By a narrow 43% to 37% margin, moderates think the government is within constitutional guidelines.

In surveys for several years, voters have defended the Constitution and questioned how it is being applied.

Sixty percent (60%) of voters, for example, say the U.S. Supreme Court should make its decisions based on the Constitution and legal precedents rather than being guided by a sense of fairness and justice. But only 38% think the high court is actually guided by the Constitution when it makes its rulings.

Despite continuing gun control efforts by federal, state and local governments, Americans overwhelmingly believe the Constitution guarantees the right of the average citizen to own a gun.

At the same time, most voters (65%) say they prefer a smaller government with lower taxes rather than one with more services and higher taxes.

Most Americans say the government already has too much influence over the economy and is involved in too many things that would be better left to the private sector.

Seventy percent (70%) of voters think big government and big business generally work together against the interests of investors and consumers.

While protective of their freedom of speech rights, most Americans have agreed over the years that they are willing to sacrifice some of that freedom to protect children from indecency.