More than three quarters of conservatives say the poor “have it easy”


So much for compassionate conservatism.

The Pew Research Center is out with part two of its huge survey of American politics. The first part, released a couple weeks ago, focused on political polarization. For this round, Pew's researchers have created a political typology which "sorts voters into cohesive groups based on their attitudes and values." There's plenty to say about this - and you can see where you fall in Pew's typology quiz here! - but for now I want to focus on the chart above, particularly the left half.

More than three quarters of conservative Americans - those in the steadfast conservative, business conservative, and young outsider typology groups - agree that "poor people have it easy because they can get government benefits without doing anything." Only seven percent of steadfast conservatives say that the poor "have hard lives."

Even a not-insignificant share of left-leaning groups say that the poor have it easy. But overall the widespread agreements among conservatives on this point is what's really striking here. There are reasonable, well-intentioned arguments on either side of many poverty-related issues - about the causes of poverty (see the right half of the chart), or whether government benefits provide a leg up or simply perpetuate poverty, for instance.

But I have a hard time understanding how you could read about the experience of families relying on food stamps to eat, or those trying to manage chronic conditions with Medicaid, and conclude that these people somehow have it easy. For context, here is a brief and wildly incomplete list of the ways life is "easy" when you're poor:

The notion that poor people have it easy is at odds with the data.

Christopher Ingraham is a data journalist focusing primarily on issues of politics, policy and economics. He previously worked at the Brookings Institution and the Pew Research Center.
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