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By Garth Kant

While supporters of President Obama say he has a mandate for change, one thing has certainly changed.

For the first time, most Americans now say the government is a threat to their personal rights and freedoms, according to a poll by the Pew Research Center.

The survey says “53 percent of Americans think that the federal government threatens their own rights and freedoms; 31 percent say it is major threat, while 22 percent say it a minor threat. Roughly three-quarters (76 percent) of conservative Republicans say that the government threatens their personal rights, and most (54 percent) say the government poses a major threat, by far the highest percentage of any ideological group.”

Only 47 percent considered the government a threat to their rights and freedoms in March 2010.

This is the first time a majority found the government a threat to rights and freedoms in Pew polls dating back to 1995.

Trust in government remains near an historic low.

Pew found only 26 percent of Americans trust the federal government always or most of the time. Seventy-three percent say they can trust the government only some of the time or never.

Only 20 percent are basically content with the federal government, while 58 percent are frustrated and 19 percent are angry.

Pew conducted the poll at the end of January and released the findings March 9.

Pew’s analysis also examines results from surveys it conducted in 2012.

Those polls found:

  • Fewer Americans have a favorable view of the federal government, with the biggest decline coming among Democrats.
  • Sixty-nine percent of Americans say the federal government should only run things that cannot be done at the local level.
  • The trend in public opinion favoring a smaller role for government is reflected in declining support for the social safety net.
  • Government regulation of business has become one of the nation’s most politically divisive issues, and that in every political values survey since 1987, majorities have agreed that “government regulation of business usually does more harm than good.”

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