September 25, 2019 2:00PM

Poll: 79% of Americans Say Economic Growth Will Better Help People Climb Out of Poverty Than More Welfare Spending

The Cato 2019 Welfare, Work, and Wealth National Survey finds that 79% of Americans believe that more economic growth rather than more welfare spending (19%) will better help people escape poverty.

The focus on economic growth over welfare spending is not controversial. Majorities of Democrats (69%), independents (76%), Republicans (90%), current welfare recipients (76%), and nonrecipients (79%) agree more economic growth will better help people in poverty.

Full survey results and report found here.

Despite this, a majority of Democrats (66%) would also like to raise welfare spending, while 61% of independents and 83% of Republicans would not. This implies that Democrats do not believe increasing welfare spending comes at a cost to economic growth. Republicans, on the other hand, appear to believe that increasing government spending (and thus taxes) to fund expanded social services detracts from economic growth.

Americans say economic growth will do more to help than welfare spending

70% of Americans Say Government Should Try to Eliminate Causes of Poverty Rather Than Increase Welfare Benefits

In addition to focusing on growth, Americans would prefer lawmakers focus efforts on addressing the root causes of poverty rather than expand the scope of social services: 70%) think it’s better to spend money trying to “eliminate the causes of poverty,” while 29% would rather allocate more resources directly to the poor to help them “get back on their feet.”

Most say it's better for gov't to focus efforts on eliminating poverty's root causes

Majorities of welfare recipients (59%), previous recipients (71%), and nonrecipients (72%) would prefer government focus its efforts on reducing the causes of poverty rather than expanding benefits.

25% of Americans Favor Cutting Government Food Assistance to the Poor

Although Americans want government to prioritize economic growth and solving the root causes of poverty first, few want to cut assistance to the poor.For instance, only 25% favor cutting government spending on food assistance to low-income people, while 41% favor increasing it and 33% would keep spending about the same.[1]

Plurality support increasing spending on government food assistance

Not surprisingly, partisans disagree. Two-thirds (66%) of Democrats would rather increase spending on food stamps, compared to 39% of independents and 17% of Republicans. Republicans are divided between cutting spending on food stamps (45%) and keeping it about the same (38%).

Nevertheless, strong majorities of Democrats (67%), independents (63%), and Republicans (76%) all agree they’d prefer resources be directed toward reducing the causes of poverty before increasing welfare benefits.

Read more of the survey report here.

The Cato Institute 2019 Welfare, Work, and Wealth Survey was designed and conducted by the Cato Institute in collaboration with YouGov. YouGov collected responses online March 5 to 8, 2019 from a representative national sample of 1,700 Americans 18 years of age and older. The margin of error for the survey is +/- 2.2 percentage points at the 95% level of confidence.


[1]Total percent may not sum to 100 due to rounding.