Americans’ Views On Welfare Have Changed In 20 Years, Here’s How

Robert Donachie | Capitol Hill and Health Care Reporter

Americans’ opinions on welfare have changed dramatically over the past two decades, according to a recent study by the American Enterprise Institute.

Some 51 percent of Americans supported workfare — a welfare system that requires those receiving benefits to perform some work or to participate in job training — in 1985. But in 2016, that number has jumped dramatically to 81 percent.

Fifty-nine percent of those polled in 1985 thought welfare made people “dependent and encourage them to stay poor,” compared with just 54 percent in 2016, reports AEI.

Americans were twice as likely in 1995 to think that “poverty resulted from people not doing enough to help themselves out than to attribute it to external forces,” according to the Wall Street Journal. A 2014 poll by the Journal shows Americans’ views changed radically in just a decade, and now more readily “blame poverty on circumstances beyond people’s control than they are to believe the poor aren’t doing enough to dig themselves out of it.”

Sixty-seven percent of Americans in 1985 expressed people, not the government, were responsible for their own well-being and had an obligation to take care themselves. Twenty-nine percent of Americans said the government, not the people, were responsible for the well-being of the people.

An interesting shift in opinion stems from both major parties. Some 50 percent of Democrats in 1995 thought people were not doing enough to help themselves out of poverty. Today, only 29 percent of Democrats hold that view, according to the Journal. In contrast, Republicans held that same view at 72 percent rate in 1995 and 61 percent in 2016.

Finally, 70 percent of Americans in 1985 were pessimistic about the ability to eliminate poverty in the United States and in 2016 that number has jumped marginally to 73 percent.

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