Pew is out with a poll about a record level of distrust in government. This item notes that distrust has been typical since the 1970s, with only 9/11 and its immediate aftermath breaking the cycle. Recessions fuel spikes, even though the country relies more on government during them. The last line is telling, I think, about public opinion. It would be impossible to abide the wishes of the majority and produce a coherent outcome.
If this sounds schizophrenic, it's hardly different from the schizophrenia Americans already suffer when we blast the government for deficit spending even as we largely defend entitlements (40% of the budget), defense spending (20%), relief for the unemployed, and the historically low tax rates that make the deficit the deficit. What does it mean that we've become a country that expects a government we don't trust to provide growing benefits from taxes we don't want to pay?
How much should leaders follow public opinion?