- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Land of the free? Not necessarily.

A massive new Gallup poll released Tuesday has confirmed what tea partyers and other grass-roots folk have warned about in recent years. The sense of freedom appears to be diminished in America, and the nation ranks well down on a list of countries based on how residents report how “satisfied” they are with the amount of freedom they enjoy.

The U.S. ranks 36th on the roster — behind such countries as Uzbekistan, the United Arab Emirates and Canada.

“Gallup asks people in more than 120 countries each year whether they are satisfied or dissatisfied with the freedom to choose what they do with their lives. In 2006, the U.S. ranked among the highest in the world for people reporting satisfaction with their level of freedom. After seven years and a 12-point decline, the U.S. no longer makes the top quartile worldwide,” the research stated.

New Zealand was at the top of the list, with 94 percent of its residents satisfied with their freedom quotient. Australia, Cambodia and Sweden followed, all ranked at 93 percent satisfied with their freedom to do what they pleased.

Among Americans, the number now stands at 79 percent, down from 91 percent in 2006 when Gallup last measured the trend. The pollster cites economic concerns as one driving force for the decline, along with another disquieting factor.

“Another possible explanation for the decline in freedom is how Americans feel about their government,” the research stated. “Among Americans, perceptions of widespread corruption in their government have been generally increasing over the past seven years.”

Gallup found that eight out of 10 U.S. respondents complained about basic entrenched corruption in the very heart of the nation and its management.

In 2006, the number was 59 percent.

“Perceived widespread corruption in the U.S. government could be on the rise for several reasons, including the significant media attention on issues such as the IRS targeting of conservative groups and National Security Agency leaks,” said Gallup analyst Jon Clifton.

“Americans not only feel that the U.S. government is performing poorly, as demonstrated by record-low congressional approval ratings, but they also report that the U.S. government itself as one of the biggest problems facing the country today,” he said.

The poll itself was massive. Gallup conducted 1,000 face-to-face interviews with respondents in each of the more than 120 polled nations.

“Americans will no doubt be celebrating their freedom this Fourth of July,” said Mr. Clifton. “However, leaders in the U.S. should be aware of a growing number of Americans who are dissatisfied with the freedom in their own lives. While freedom means many things to different people, one underlying cause for this sentiment seems to be how people feel about their national government.”

• Jennifer Harper can be reached at jharper@washingtontimes.com.

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