NOT GOOD, BUT NOT QUITE AS BAD AS ’95…. Following up on an item from Monday, Gallup conducted a national poll, asking whether people would prefer the government do more to “solve our country’s problems” or whether more should be left to “individuals and businesses.” The results were discouraging — the percentage of Americans who believe “government is trying to do too much” is the highest it’s been since the days of Speaker Gingrich.

The new NBC News/Wall Street Journal had a similar question in its poll, but found different results (pdf). Respondents were asked whether government “should do more to solve problems and help meet the needs of people” or government “is doing too many things better left to businesses and individuals.”

A narrow plurality preferred the latter, 49% to 45%, but the 49% is the highest anti-government-activism rating in several years. Note, however, that there was only a four-point gap between the two — in the Gallup poll, it was a 19-point gap between those who think government is doing too much, and those who want it do more.

What’s more, while the demand for government activism has clearly declined, this poll suggests we’re not close to the public attitudes of 1995, when it was nearly two-to-one in conservatives’ favor.

As for improving this trend, all of the arguments from Monday still apply. First, those who think government is doing too much often don’t mean it (“Keep government out of Medicare”). Second, Dems can help prove critics wrong by using the powers of the state effectively, including passing a strong health care reform bill. And third, President Obama, among others, can continue to promote the idea of government activism.

That said, Steve M. also raised a good point on Monday, which Dems would be wise to consider: “Every few years, our side gets the message out and persuades more people to vote Democratic. We don’t get a message out that persuades more people to think in a genuinely progressive way. We never do that, and we desperately need to. We need to make more liberals, not just more Democrats. Otherwise, this is the result: shock and horror when Democrats do (or even seem to do) Democratic things.”

* Note: Yes, this is another home-made chart, based on the NBC/WSJ data.

Steve Benen

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.