One of the most fundamental disagreements between Democrats and Republicans is the social safety net’s effect on low-income Americans. Republicans like Representative Paul Ryan argue that welfare creates a “hammock of poverty” that traps poor Americans. Under this theory, giving poor people money actually makes them worse off. Liberals find this theory absurd. They argue that the economy has left millions of Americans behind. Government support is necessary to keep them out of deep poverty.
Pew Research Center has a massive new survey out Wednesday that reveals these beliefs. They group respondents not just into the traditional “liberal” and “conservative” categories, but offer more specific coalitions such as “Faith and Family Left” and “Business Conservatives.” Among the questions Pew asked was whether the respondents thought people “have hard lives because government doesn’t go far enough” or whether they “have it easy” because they can rely on government benefits. By a huge amount, conservatives believe that poor people “have it easy.” In addition, a significantly greater number of Americans believe that “circumstances beyond their control” are to blame if a person is poor. Here are the full numbers:
Danny Vinik is a staff writer at The New Republic.