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By a factor of nearly three to one, Americans believe that state and local government is more successful at solving problems than Washington, D.C. In the just-released Heartland Monitor Poll sponsored by Allstate and National Journal, 64 percent of respondents said that more progress is being made by governments close to home compared to just 26 percent who chose the federal government.
This federalist sentiment was shared by people across nearly every group, independent of age, gender, education level, personal wealth and region. When the question was expanded to include state and local institutions like businesses and nonprofits, the gap with national organizations increased to a 69-22 split. National Journal interviewed some Americans about the findings:
“After 10 years of paying attention to politics, I just prefer state and local government,” says [Michael] Hansen, an independent voter who works in food sales and lives in Idaho, just outside of Sun Valley. “I think local and state politicians actually listen more. They have to live within the same rules that they create.”
…”Changes on the national level haven’t affected me,” explains 22-year-old Hailey Kenkel, a Democrat and graduate student from Maryville, Missouri. “I don’t know how people are supposed to make big changes with how hard Congress makes it.”
…”The federal government is too big and too slow. I think it needs to be cut down,” says Luke Roberts, a 30-year-old Republican from Littleton, Colo. “I just think that less is more right now with the federal government.”
Diving into the numbers (PDF here) only reinforces this local-first attitude. Respondents think America as a whole is on the wrong track by 54 to 33 percent, but they think their own area is on the right track, 66 to 25 percent. And that’s in spite of a grim assessment of the U.S. economy (75 percent negative; 25 percent positive).
What most warmed my conservatarian heart was the preference for non-governmental institutions. When asked who most improved their local area, businesses and nonprofits each got more than double the votes of government, which carried a lowly 15 percent. When it came to providing job opportunities, government at all levels earned a meager 8 percent.
For years, conservatives have insisted that the real work of governance is happening in our statehouses and city halls. For once, it seems like the American people overwhelmingly agree with us. How can we capitalize on this moment to push the feds to devolve government to where it actually belongs?