If you wanted to describe the GOP’s journey from the Bush era to the Trump era in one chart, you might check out the latest data on concerns about federal power from our partners at Gallup. It’s one of two dozen issues they’ve consistently tracked over the last 20 years, which they updated with new polls today.
After 9/11, Republican voters rallied around national security measures that were more like to be opposed by Democrats —including expanded surveillance, torture, and military operations abroad. But as the war faded, there was a surge in Republican skepticism toward government, often centered around spending under President Obama, but later fanning out to public health agencies during the pandemic, and fears of FBI and “deep state” interference under both Trump and President Biden.
Since 2003, the parties have moved apart a net 50 points on whether the federal government has too much power, the most of any of two dozen topics Gallup polled in that period.
It hasn’t been a consistent year-by-year trend — partisans tend to be more trusting of government when their own party holds the White House and the gap narrowed early on under Trump’s presidency — but the overall arc has been towards more Republican distrust, even with a Republican in office.
Some other notable areas where polarization has increased: Abortion, which Democrats are now far more supportive of keeping legal in any circumstances, and immigration, where Democrats and Republicans have moved in opposite directions on whether the U.S. should decrease the number of immigrants it admits and the overall benefit they provide to the country. The parties are still moving in opposite directions on climate change as well, though it hasn’t stopped a red state boom in renewable energy and electric vehicle production.