Poll: Government viewed as a threat to freedom

Greg Sandoval/CNET

At the outset of President Obama's second term, he sits atop a government that a majority of Americans - 53 percent - view as a threat to personal rights and freedoms, according to a new poll from the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press.

In March 2010, only 47 percent of respondents felt that the government threatened their freedom. The increase since then has been driven largely by Republicans - in 2010, only 62 percent of conservative Republicans described the government as a threat, but today, 76 percent of conservative Republicans feel threatened by the state.

One interesting crosstab: amid a growing push for stricter gun laws, households with guns feel more threatened than households without: 62 percent of gun-owning households view government as a threat to freedom, while only 45 percent of those without guns agree.

And just 26 percent of respondents said they trust the government to do the right thing always or most of the time; 73 percent said the government can be trusted to do the right thing only sometimes or never.

Still, despite the mostly dismal numbers, only 19 percent of respondents described themselves as "angry" at the federal government. A much more common sentiment - frustration - was voiced by 58 percent. And 20 percent described themselves as basically content with the government.

The Pew poll also delivers a familiar verdict on Congress. (Spoiler alert: people don't like it.)

Only 23 percent of respondents expressed a favorable view of Congress, while 68 percent expressed an unfavorable view. And by a large margin, Americans blame lawmakers themselves, not the system or the institution: 56 percent of respondents said members of Congress are the problem, while only 32 percent said that lawmakers have good intentions but that the political system is broken.

For the survey, Pew interviewed 1,502 adults from January 9-13.