Seventy-nine percent (79%) of voters believe representative democracy is a better form of government than one run by unelected policy experts. A ScottRasmussen.com poll found that only 21% disagree and prefer government by policy experts.
The United States was founded upon a believe that governments derive their only legitimate authority from the consent of the governed. However, in recent years, some have argued strongly in favor of rulemaking by experts. Among other things, they have decried what they perceive as electoral concerns thwarting measures to fight climate change.
The overwhelming majority of voters reject that view. In fact, 75% believe Congress should review and approve regulations before they are implemented. Just 25% believe government agencies should be able to set regulations on their own (see question wording and crosstab results).
Despite voter opposition, a 1984 Supreme Court ruling gave regulators authority to set their own rules and determine what activities they have jurisdiction over. This issue is likely to come before the Supreme Court again in the not to distant future.
The national survey of 1,000 Registered Voters was conducted August 30-21, 2018 for ScottRasmussen.com by HarrisX, a polling company specializing in online surveys (see Methodology). It has a 3.1 percentage point Margin of Error with a 95% level of confidence.
The poll also dug deeper into the question of a locally accountable government vs. centrally located government. Only 37% believe it is better for regulations to be set at the federal level. Nearly two-thirds believe regulations should either be set at the state level (35%) or the local level (28%).
Nearly half (48%) of Democrats prefer federal regulation while a plurality of Republicans (41%) prefer state regulation. Independent voters are split evenly: 34% want federal rulemaking; 34% favor having states set regulatory rules; and, 31% think regulations are best set at the local level.
A split sample research technique was used on that last question. Half the survey respondents were simply asked where regulations should be set. The other half first heard a statement noting that local governments could reflect local issues better and federal governments can make rules that could affect all Americans evenly. However, there was no significant difference in the results between the two approaches.
Despite the strong public preference for representative democracy, the federal regulatory state has grown dramatically in recent decades. Federal regulatory agencies spend $70 billion annually and employ nearly 300,000 people. Both figures have skyrocketed since the 1970s.
This regulatory authority was designed to reduce what President Woodrow Wilson considered the “meddlesome” influence of voters. However, it raises serious concerns in a nation where voters are supposed to be in charge. In an earlier column, I noted that the Regulatory State can claim no authority from either the Constitution or the Declaration of Independence. As voters who reject rule by unelected policy experts recognize, it is an illegitimate form of government.
My latest book, The Sun is Still Rising: Politics Has Failed But America Will Not, makes the case that voters have more control over state and local governments. That’s because they have the power to walk away which is far more effective at holding governments accountable than the right to vote.
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Neither Scott Rasmussen nor ScottRasmussen.com has any relationship with Rasmussen Reports® (see About Us).