Survey: We are the 47%

Much has been made about Mitt Romney’s definition of your typical Obama voter as people benefiting from “handouts,” but a new survey reveals there’s not much difference between the Obama and Romney crowd when it comes to entitlement.

Pew Research says the majority of Americans — 55% –have received government benefits from at least one of the six best-known federal entitlement programs. Fifty-nine percent of the people who voted for Obama fall into the category; 53% of Romney voters benefited from a major government program.

But there remains a significant disagreement on the role of government, even among those who benefit from an existing entitlement program:


Nearly three-quarters of those who ever received welfare benefits (73%) say government has a duty to care for those who cannot care for themselves. In contrast, less than six-in-ten (56%) of those who have never been on welfare agree.

Similar double-digit gaps surface between non-recipients and those who ever received food stamps (14 percentage points) and Medicaid (13 points).

But when those who ever received unemployment benefits are compared with those who have not, the gap virtually disappears: About six-in-ten adults (57%) who have received unemployment benefits say government should help the helpless, while 58% who never collected jobless benefits agree.

No significant differences in attitudes toward government’s responsibility to the neediest emerged between adults who have ever received Social Security and those who have not (60% vs. 57%). Similarly about six-in-ten (61%) of those who benefited from Medicare believe it is government’s duty to help those who cannot help themselves, while 56% of those who have not received these benefits agree.

  • kennedy

    In discussions about entitlement reform, I find that many people do not consider social security or medicare to be an entitlement. These programs are among the biggest contributors to projected expansions in government spending.

    It seems to stem from a perception that “I paid in, I should get it back”. Benefits for people retiring today are projected to average 30% more than they paid in (including adjustments for interest and inflation).

  • jon

    “It’s only out of control government spending if they aren’t spending it on me!”

    Unless of course it’s unemployment, which I think is more of a reflection on how secure many people feel in their present jobs then on who has received unemployment before.

  • BJ

    //I find that many people do not consider social security or medicare to be an entitlement.

    I find that social security and medicare are the only things people agree are entitlement programs.

  • Kevin Watterson

    Like I said, we want cake and to eat it, too. But I would probably draw a distinction between programs people directly pay into and then receive from versus programs that you don’t pay into per se.

  • TJ

    There are also some other really big budget items, like the mortgage interest tax deduction, that I’m sure never even cross people’s mind as a government benefit.

  • Kevin Watterson

    Rightfully so. Letting you keep your own money is only a benefit in the twisted world of government finance.

  • TJ

    It’s a benefit if the government privileges some people over others in terms of how much money goes between a person and the government in a given year. Why should somebody who buys a house get to deduct the interest from their taxable income when someone who buys a car doesn’t?

    That money has to be made up somewhere, perhaps by raising the basic rate on the rest of us. So, yeah, it is a benefit. Complicated, I know.