Research
11:00 am
Tue January 22, 2013

Attitudes shift on people in poverty and government programs

I found a recently released New America Foundation report really interesting for a couple of reasons. There's the data (more on that later), but I was fascinated by how the report also documents the same phenomenon that occurs when you look at yourself in the mirror for too long. When you stare at yourself for too long you start to not like what you see. Imperfections ("My nose is actually crooked!"), start to surface and then to loom very large. Look too close and you might end up liking yourself less at the end of the experiment.

So what does this have to do with the report? The report analyzes some recent data by the Pew Research Center on American attitudes about poverty and government programs. It turns out, even though more of us need these programs and consider ourselves lower class, fewer of us support these programs.

It may not surprise you that support for programs that make sure families get enough to eat and have a roof over their heads are losing public support. A majority of American's still support these programs, but fewer support them now than ten years ago.

This decline in support is happening at the same time the recent recession has caused more people to need  these programs. The people using the programs are in many cases the same people saying they don't support them.

Attitudes differ by age, gender, economic status, and political party, but what the data doesn't show us is why people's views on government programs are shifting.

There is possibly some evidence that what is at least in part at work is a lack of empathy. As American's we place the value of freedom much higher than the value of feeding and clothing everyone in need. I found the chart below to be one of the most interesting in the report.

I'm also curious as to what has shaped your attitudes on poverty and government programs? Tell us by sharing your story here.