All governments require political legitimacy — the right to rule — to function and survive. The basis or type of political legitimacy varies. Kings and emperors claim a divine right to rule — that they are specially chosen and annointed by God. Marxist, Fascist, and Nazi governments are ideocracies claiming to possess special knowledge and truths. The legitimacy of democratic governments is based on popular sovereignty: Since the People are king, the only legitimate government is one that has the consent of the governed.
The notion that government derives only just authority from the consent of the people is a foundational principle of the American Republic. But a new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that just 23% of voters nationalwide believe the federal government today has the consent of the governed. 62% say it does not, and 15% are not sure. This means that fewer than 1 out of every 4 American voter sees the federal government as having legitimacy.
There is no gender gap on this question, but age and ideology do matter. Whereas 28% of voters under 30 say government has the people’s consent, only 15% of senior citizens share that view.
Most liberal voters (58%) think the federal government has the consent of the governed. In contrast, most moderates (57%) and most conservatives (84%) disagree.
The survey of 1,000 Likely Voters was conducted on July 12-13, 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.
Rasmussen also finds a large gap between American voters and the Political (ruling) Class. Over the past couple of years, most Americans have opposed many initiatives of the Political Class including the bailouts of the financial and auto industries. Additionally, most voters still favor repeal of the national health care plan and overwhelmingly disagree with the Justice Department’s decision to challenge Arizona’s new immigration law in court.
68% of voters believe the Political Class doesn’t care what most Americans think. Earlier polling shows that 59% are embarrassed by the behavior of the Political Class. Only 4% of Mainstream Voters think the Political Class cares. 55% don’t even think most members of Congress pay all the taxes they owe. 70% believe Big Government and Big Business are on the same team working together against the rest of us.
Voters are evenly divided over the notion that a group of people randomly selected from the phone book could do a better job than the current Congress.
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