Partisan beliefs about government size depend on who is president
The fact that Democrats for most of the Bush administration were more likely than Republicans to say the government had too much power probably reflected Democrats' negative views on government power in the Bush years in terms of fighting terrorism, the Patriot Act, and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.The strange thing about this explanation is that Obama has continued the Patriot Act and the vast majority of Bush's approach to fighting terrorism.
Once Obama took office, however, these partisan views changed, and Republicans' concern about government power overtook Democrats'. This partly reflects Republicans' views on the role of government spending and government power in domestic and economic affairs. . . .
Another interesting finding is that Independents are much closer to Republicans today in their views on whether government has too much power than they are to the views of Democrats. While 82% of Republicans thought that the government was "doing too much," that position was held by 62% of Independents and only 24% of Democrats.