NYU Wagner’s Paul Light Offers the Top 11 Reasons Based on Surveys

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President Joe Biden approaches the 2024 presidential campaign with the federal government’s performance rating in decline and the public appetite for very major government reform and a smaller government on the rise, according to a report released today (Apr. 13) by Paul C. Light of New York University.

In his analysis of voter responses to past and recent surveys, Light points to 11 takeaways or reasons why the government performance on Biden's  watch is likely to help influence the 2024 election, even though the economy and international affairs are likely to be the topmost concerns.

Among the report’s takeaways, according to Professor Light, a nationally recognized expert on the federal service, are:

The federal government’s ratings for running its programs are in decline:

  • According to Light’s recent public opinion surveys, 44% of respondents supported a combination of very major reform and a smaller government aimed at “dismantling” government programs;
  • 27% supported a combination of a bigger government and major reform toward “expanding” programs;
  • 19% supported a combination of major reform and a bigger government toward “rebuilding” programs, and
  • 11% supported a combination of only some reform and a smaller government toward “streamlining” programs.

Biden’s job ratings have also fallen.

  • Biden started his first year in office with a 50% excellent/good rating for running federal programs before dropping to 30% the next January, suggesting he “must add government reform to his accomplishments.”
  • The number of federal agency “breakdowns” (defined as visible failures with a high degree of public interest) continues to increase rather than abate.

Light, a professor at the Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service at New York University, concludes his report by stating that Biden must “recognize the sharp limits of government reform.” Even as the president hopes for shorter lines at the Transportation Security Administration, better service from healthcare.gov, and a faster Internal Revenue Service, the “dismantlers” and “streamliners” among the voters are more likely to ignore Biden’s promise to “put people at the center of everything the government does.” Absent a significant commitment to government reform, many Americans might wonder whether being “at the center of everything” is too close for comfort, writes Light.

For further information, please contact Professor Light at paul.light@nyu.edu.

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