What Is Government?


Government is the body, entity or organization invested with the power to manage a political unit, such as a country, state or region. A government’s duties may include ensuring social order, security and public services. It may also be responsible for regulating economic affairs, international relations, defense and the environment. Governments come in many forms, including democratic government, authoritarian regimes and communist governments. In a democracy, citizens decide what happens through regular free and fair elections, while in an authoritarian government, the leadership controls all aspects of society. Some countries combine elements from these different models, resulting in a hybrid form of government.

Governments evolved as people realized that it was easier to protect themselves if they lived in groups and agreed on the leaders who would govern them. This recognition gave rise to the concept of sovereignty, or the right of a group (later a nation) to be self-governing and not subject to outside interference. Governments then evolved to tax, draw upon the resources of a nation and compel citizen compliance, all in service to protecting the interests of the community at large. Today, most nations have governments of some kind that serve these needs.

Most Americans agree that the federal government is doing a good job protecting the nation from terrorist attacks and natural disasters, providing jobs and education, and strengthening the economy. But opinions differ on whether government is doing a good job keeping the country safe from crime and illegal immigration, addressing climate change, helping people get out of poverty, managing the nation’s debt, and maintaining infrastructure.

The views about government’s role and performance have changed little since 2017. Overall, more than six-in-ten say the government should do more to solve problems. However, Republicans and Republicans leaners are more split than Democrats or Democratic leaners on this question. A sizable share of each party thinks the government is doing too many things that are better left to private individuals and businesses.