With America’s birthday today, a public opinion pollster (Rasmussen) solicited opinions about whether or not Americans agree with a certain major tenet of the Declaration of Independence, specifically whether “governments derive their only just powers from the consent of the governed.” Rasmussen reports its results with the following statement:
The Declaration of Independence, ratified by the Continental Congress on July 4, 1776, asserts that “governments derive their only just powers from the consent of the governed.” A new Rasmussen Reports national survey finds that 70% of American Adults agree with that statement, up from 66% last year and up from 56% in 2008. Just 13% now disagree with this assertion, but 17% are undecided.
At the same time, a Rasmussen survey just last week concluded just 22% of Americans believe their government has the consent of the governed. With these two results, some analysts are suggesting that we should expect some significant changes in Congress and/or the White House this November with many current members being voted out. However, before jumping to this conclusion, let’s take a little deeper look into these surveys.
The most recent survey result of 70% agreeing with the statement in the Declaration of Independence was generated via a “national survey of adults”. In contrast, last week’s survey result that just 22% of Americans believe their government has the consent of the governed was generated via a national survey of “likely voters.” (A recent blog found here details the differences between these groups.) Last week’s survey also found that this result was widely partisan; Democrats were evenly split as to whether or not the government has the consent needed for legitimacy yet only 8% of Republicans and 21% of unaffiliated voters believe it does.
To make a comparison of the two surveys, it would be helpful to have the same type of respondents (e.g., either both “national survey of adults” or both “likely voters”). However, even with this inconsistency, it may be a plausible conclusion that because (i) most Americans agree with Declaration of Independence (or at least one of its main tenets) and (ii) less than a quarter of “likely voters” believe the government has the consent for legitimacy, changes may well be on the way in Washington in November.