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Majority of Voters Say Protecting Individual Rights Is Government’s Chief Role

Most voters think the most important role for government is to protect their individual rights.

A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey gave Likely U.S. Voters three options in asking what the primary purpose of a government is in an ideal world, and 59% say it’s to protect individual rights and freedom.

Twenty-four percent (24%) believe a government’s primary purpose is to ensure fairness and social justice, while 10% say it’s to manage the economy. (To see survey question wording, click here.) 

But nearly half (48%) of American Adults see the government today as a threat to individual rights rather than a protector of those rights. 

Not surprisingly, perceptions on the role of government vary dramatically along ideological lines. Eighty percent (80%) of conservatives see government’s chief role as protecting individual rights and freedom. However,  a plurality (48%) of liberals put insuring fairness and social justice at the top of the list. Among moderate voters, a plurality (48%) agrees with the conservative perspective with a focus on protecting individual rights.

The widest gap as is often the case is between the Political Class and Mainstream voters. Seventy percent (70%) of those in the Mainstream say the primary role of a government is to protect individual rights. Fifty-one percent (51%) of Political Class voters say insuring fairness and social justice should come first.

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The survey of 1,000 Likely U.S. Voters was conducted on December 19-20, 2010 by Rasmussen Reports. The margin of sampling error is +/- 3 percentage points with a 95% level of confidence. Field work for all Rasmussen Reports surveys is conducted by Pulse Opinion Research, LLC. See methodology.

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