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Perceived Power of Major U.S. Societal Entities

Sponsor: Gallup
Released: 2011-04

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Lobbyists, major corporations, banks, and the federal government all have too much power, according to Americans. By contrast, the public largely believes state and local governments, the legal system, organized religion, and the military each have the right amount of power or too little power. Labor unions elicit mixed responses, with the plurality saying they have too much power, but a slim majority saying their power is about right or lacking.

While relatively few Americans believe any of these major societal players have too little power, roughly one in four say labor unions, organized religion, and the military are deficient in this regard. Only about the military do more people say it has too little rather than too much power, 28% vs. 14%.

Democrats are somewhat more likely than Republicans to see organized religion, the military, major corporations, and banks as too powerful. The two party groups’ views on the courts, lobbyists, local government, and state government are about the same.

Attitudes about labor unions are the most ambiguous of all 10 entities measured: while nearly half of Americans (43%) say unions have too much power, a fairly hefty 24% say they have too little power, leaving just 28% who consider their power about right.

The survey results highlight the major gulf between Democrats’ and Republicans’ views on unions and the federal government. Republicans are highly likely to say both have too much power, while Democrats are much less likely to believe either has too much power and, in fact, tend to believe unions have too little power.