Pew: 53% of Americans Now Say Government Threatens Their Rights and Freedoms

By Pete Winn | February 7, 2013 | 5:19pm EST

FILE - First Lady Michelle Obama tells food companies in 2010 to reduce sugar and salt in the foods they produce. (AP photo)

( - For the first time, a majority of the public says that the federal government threatens their personal rights and freedoms, according to a new survey conducted by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press.

The nationwide telephone survey found that 53 percent of Americans think that the federal government threatens their own personal rights and freedoms while 43 percent disagree.

Of those who say government is a threat, 31 percent say it is a major threat, while 22 percent say it is a minor threat.

Fully three-quarters (76 percent) of conservative Republicans said that the government threatens their personal rights, and most (54 percent) said the government poses a major threat, by far the highest percentage of any ideological group identified.

Even among moderate and liberal Republicans, 57 percent view the federal government as a threat to personal rights and freedoms and 32 percent said it is a major threat.

Among Democrats, 38 percent said the government is a threat, just 16 percent said it as a major threat.

According to Pew, the survey also found “continued widespread distrust in government.”

Only one quarter of Americans (26 percent) trust the government in Washington ‘to do the right thing just about always or most of the time.”

A full 73 percent of those surveyed said they “can never trust the government” or can trust the government “only some of the time.”

Pew, which doesn’t ask the question every year, said that the 2013 response is a significant change from March 2010, when opinions were almost equally divided over whether the government represented a threat to personal freedom – 47 percent said it did while 50 percent disagreed.

In surveys conducted between 1995 and 2003, majorities of those surveyed rejected the idea that the government threatened people’s rights and freedoms, Pew indicated.

Cherylyn Harley LeBon of Project 21. (Project 21 photo)

Cherylyn Harley LeBon of Project 21 National Black Leadership Network said the alienation of conservatives may be fueling the latest numbers, but public distrust in government has been growing across-the-board.

“Such widespread alarm about federal encroachment indicates there is absolutely a bipartisan, across-the-board concern about the assault on Americans’ personal freedoms, choices and ability to raise families on their own terms,” LeBon said.

“Whether it is ObamaCare, the Second Amendment or the constant barrage of ‘nanny state’ regulations at all levels of government, Americans are speaking up about feeling threatened by institutional intrusion,” she said.

“This intrusion is all around,” she added.

For instance, she said a bill was introduced just last month in New York mandating that “no owner or operator of a restaurant in this state shall use salt in any form in the preparation of any food for consumption by customers.”

“A complete ban on salt in restaurants! Offenders could be fined up to $1,000 under the terms of the proposed law,” LeBon said.

The bill, which is sponsored by State Sen. Eric Adams (D-Brooklyn), is currently before the New York Senate Committee on Consumer Protection.

LeBon also pointed to 160 pages of new rules handed down by the Obama administration in early February, which are required under the child nutrition law championed by Michelle Obama and passed by Congress in 2010

“America is a free market society, where individuals should be allowed to make the best choices for themselves and their families without micromanagement by the government.  Hence the growing distrust of the American people when government intrudes.”

The Pew survey was conducted Jan. 9-13 among a national sample of 1,502 adults, with a confidence factor of 95 percent.

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