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Majority of Americans have benefited from entitlements, poll finds

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A solid majority of Americans say they have received benefits from six of the nation’s best-known federal entitlement programs, according to a survey released Tuesday by the Pew Research Center.

Although legislative efforts to rein in the nation’s debt by trimming programs such as Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid are closely associated with Republicans, patronage of the programs is bipartisan, the survey data found.

The report says that 52 percent of Republicans and 60 percent of Democrats say they have benefitted from the programs in their lives. Overall, 55 percent of Americans say they have received benefits from entitlements in their lifetimes.

Reliance on the programs also spans ideology: 57 percent of self-described conservatives, 53 percent of liberals and 53 percent of moderates say they have received federal entitlement benefits.

The growing cost of entitlement programs has been a central issue in the ongoing negotiations between House Republicans and President Obama over reining in the national debt. Likewise, the issue of entitlements was brought into sharp focus during the 2012 presidential campaign, when GOP nominee Mitt Romney was caught on video saying, “There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what . . . who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims.”

The Pew poll found that 53 percent of people who voted for Romney benefitted from major entitlement programs, and 59 percent of those who voted for Obama did.

The entitlement programs covered by the survey include unemployment benefits, Social Security, Medicare, food stamps, Medicaid and welfare benefits.

The poll, which sampled the opinions of 2,511 respondents, found that 32 percent of Americans have benefitted from two or more entitlement programs in their lives.

The survey also found that nearly six in 10 Americans say the government has a responsibility to care for those who cannot take of themselves, “a view that is only slightly more prevalent among those who have ever received an entitlement (60%) than among those who have not (55%),” the report said.

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