A Gallup poll asks about a thousand Americans whether they think certain institutions have too much power, too little power, or just the right amount of power. What'd we learn? Americans think pretty much everyone has too much power. Especially lobbyists, corporations, banks, and the federal government.
For lobbyists, 71 percent of respondents said they have too much power, versus just 8 percent who said they have too little power. That's a net "too much" of 63 percentage points. Corporations got 58 net "too much," banks 59, and the federal government 49. Labor unions got 19, state government 19, and courts 20. Bare one-point net majorities said that local governments and organized religion have too much power.
The only institution that people say has too little power is the military.
What does all this mean? Kevin Drum at Mother Jones points out the obvious: "An awful lot of Americans apparently feel that they themselves have no voice to speak of, which must mean that everybody else has too much."
Drum also believes the poll helps explain why the budget fight went the way it did: "The fact is that it's pretty much impossible to win a political battle when the public is on the other side. And this poll makes it pretty clear that a big plurality of Americans are in favor of defanging the federal government." But he sees the tides turning up ahead:
Boehner won this round because the actual reductions on the table were never made concrete ... However, when it comes to something big and well known, like Medicare, this dynamic shifts in the opposite direction and Boehner will almost certainly be on the losing side of public opinion if he tries to push for big cuts.
Matthew Yglesias at Think Progress looks at the military's strong showing and takes a different lesson about political immobility. "No matter what people say about defense spending or the deficit," he writes, "it will in practice be extremely difficult for mere politicians to ever win an argument with generals and admirals."
Meanwhile, the blogger Echidne isn't even sure the military belongs on this list: "I wonder if the concept of 'power' is interpreted differently when it comes to the military. It is, after all, by definition about the use of power. In short, I'm not sure that the military fits into a question like that very well.
For Douglas McIntyre at 24/7 Wall St., it's important to keep perspective.
People reject the power of the institutions which are powerful at the time of the surveys. They support the groups and institutions that do not have as much leverage. The demons are the entities that citizens cannot control much. The cycle of which groups are powerful and which are not will swing in the next few years, as it always does ... The Gallup poll results will look very different soon.
The Gallup item itself points out that since "Americans generally agree that lobbyists, major corporations, and banks have too much power," this could "potentially [make] them vulnerable to calls for greater regulation." Not to be cynical, but we wonder whether the guys at Gallup have been paying attention to the news lately.
Here's a full table of results from Gallup: