A majority of Americans believe a “deep state” that operates outside the democratic system exists within the US government and is secretly controlling national policy, according to a new survey.
Some 74 percent of respondents stated they believed the so-called deep state, a term used for a group of unelected government and military officials who allegedly manipulate the government behind the scenes, exists, according to the Monmouth Poll released Monday.
Most respondents did not know what the term meant at first, but when told stated they believed it to be real. Just 20 percent said a deep state likely did not exist.
“This is a worrisome finding. The strength of our government relies on public faith in protecting our freedoms, which is not particularly robust. And it’s not a Democratic or Republican issue. These concerns span the political spectrum,” director of the independent Monmouth University Polling Institute Patrick Murray said in a statement.
The poll also found that eight in 10 Americans think the US government is actively spying on its citizens. Just 14 percent of Americans believe the US government is not spying on citizens at all.
The term “deep state” entered into the political discourse during the 2016 US presidential election.
US President Donald Trump, a Republican, has often directly used the term to attack government agencies he thinks did not fully investigate his presidential opponent, Democrat Hillary Clinton.
Since Trump's election, the term has been used by political commentators who argue that a deep state, involving the US Justice Department, former President Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, is aiming to delegitimize the Trump presidency and thwart its policy goals.
In January, Trump accused the Justice Department of being part of the deep state. “Crooked Hillary Clinton’s top aid, Huma Abedin, has been accused of disregarding basic security protocols,” Trump tweeted. “Jail! Deep State Justice Dept must finally act,” he added.