Rising Distrust Is Wind In Conservatives' Sails Many Americans distrust the federal government — a viewpoint that is especially common among conservatives. That's the finding of a recent poll, and to many conservatives, it suggests that the broader public is coming around to their viewpoint — and giving them political momentum.
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Rising Distrust Is Wind In Conservatives' Sails

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Rising Distrust Is Wind In Conservatives' Sails

Rising Distrust Is Wind In Conservatives' Sails

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STEVE INSKEEP, Host:

The president's speech today addresses one of the few areas in which Americans say they want more government action. People tell pollsters they want tougher rules on Wall Street. At the same time, nearly six in 10 Americans think the government has gone too far in regulating businesses and interfering with the economy.

A: NPR's Don Gonyea reports.

DON GONYEA: Comedian Dennis Miller captured this in an appearance on Fox News when he listed the only things he thinks Washington is good at.

DENNIS MILLER: I want Barack Obama to roll the eggs out on the lawn at Easter. I want him to save the bird's neck at Thanksgiving. I want him to light the tree at Christmas and fund the military. And the rest of it - I just don't trust the government. I'm not paranoid. I'm not a militia guy. I'm not a militia guy. I just don't think they know what they're doing.

GONYEA: So conservatives don't trust the government. It sounds like a dog bites man story.

MICHAEL DIMOCK: To some extent, I think it is.

GONYEA: That's Michael Dimock of the Pew Research Center. But, Dimock says, there is a man bites dog part of this story as well. It's that over time Republicans are actually no more distrusting of government than Democrats are.

DIMOCK: That is one of the surprising findings. Even though Republicans are more ideologically conservative about the role of government, they can feel very positive about government when there's a Republican president.

GONYEA: Unidentified Woman: All right. Runners set. Go.

(SOUNDBITE OF CHEERING)

(SOUNDBITE OF CHEERING AND CLAPPING)

GONYEA: On Saturday, the conservative group Young Americans for Freedom hosted a race in Washington's Rock Creek Park.

JORDAN MARKS: Today, we have the Freedom 5k, a little exercise, especially after all that health care debate. It's good to actually have a little bit of health in your life.

GONYEA: Jordan Marks is the group's executive director. On the lack of trust on the part of young conservatives, he says it's understandable.

MARKS: In America, you're told you go to school, you get an education, you get a degree, and then you're going to have a job waiting for you. And this great American society is going to be there and you're going to have this wonderful life.

GONYEA: John Samples is with the Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank.

JOHN SAMPLES: Part of the trusting problem, I think, it also goes to the fact that you didn't leave them alone, in the sense that you had laissez-faire up until they went bankrupt, essentially, and then the taxpayer was brought in as the investor of last resort.

GONYEA: Samples then adds...

SAMPLES: Certainly for conservatives it's an embarrassing situation, but also a situation that pushes you toward saying that the government did something wrong, including President Bush.

GONYEA: Don Gonyea, NPR News, Washington.

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