Who Do You Think Has Power? Mostly People You May Not Like

July 17, 2013, 4:50 PM GMT+0

(Week of 7/13/2013) Who sets the agenda for government? Who influences decisions? The latest Economist/YouGov Poll finds Americans of all political persuasions putting big business groups at or near the top of their list of who has a great deal of power to affect government. However, when it comes to some other groups, the public tends to see more power in the hands of groups with whom they disagree.

For example, 56% of Republicans believe the Democratic Party has a great deal of influence on what government does, far more than the 31% of Democrats who think this. Twice as many Democrats as Republicans think the GOP has a great deal of power.

Labor unions, business’ frequent antagonist, have been declining in membership and influence in recent decades. Overall many more see business as wielding influence than think that labor unions do, yet Republicans see it differently. 64% of them say labor unions have a great deal of influence, more than think that about big business.

In many cases, the different perceptions result in overall similarities in how Americans perceive various groups. Pro-choice activists fare only a little better than pro-life advocates in American perceptions of who has power. Environmentalists and developers are similarly rated. Yet Republicans are more likely than Democrats to think environmentalists and pro-choice activists have a great deal of power, while Democrats think it is developers and pro-life activists.

Americans think the National Rifle Association has more influence than gun control activists. They also see gay and lesbian rights groups as having more influence than traditional family values groups. Republicans are four times as likely as Democrats to believe gay and lesbian groups have a great deal of influence; Democrats are three times as likely as Republicans to think traditional values groups do.