September 28, 2012

Support for Government Social Safety Net Declines

43%

Just over four-in-ten (43%) Americans believe the government should help more needy people, even if it means going deeper in debt. Support for the social safety net has declined among Republicans and independents.

Support for a government social safety net declined in 2009 and has continued to decrease since then. Support for government programs to aid the poor now nears the 25-year lows seen in 1994. Today, just 43% agree that the government should help more needy people, even if it means going deeper in debt, down from 48% in 2009 and 54% in 2007.

Similarly, although a majority (59%) says that it falls to the government to take care of those who cannot care for themselves, this is down 10 points from 2007.

Since 2007, Republican support for the safety net has declined significantly even as Democrats continue to support government assistance to the poor and needy as they have over the last 25 years. As a result, although the safety net has long been one of the areas where the opinions of Republicans and Democrats most diverge, the current party gap is now larger than ever.

Majorities of Republicans now say they disagree that the government should guarantee every citizen enough to eat and a place to sleep (36% agree, 63% disagree) and take care of people who can’t take care of themselves (40% agree, 54% disagree). As recently as 2009, Republican opinions on these questions were more evenly divided.

Republicans also have consistently disagreed with the statement that: “the government should help more needy people even if it means going deeper in debt”; 76% now say they disagree, an increase of 15 points since 2007. Democratic positions in support of these items have been relatively stable over the last quarter century. Read More