Addressing hunger: Republicans say charity; Dems say government

Hunger-in-AmericaIf charity was the answer to our problems, then there would be no homelessness in America, no poverty in general. We would have a much better health care system and school systems that truly met the needs of children and society’s common good. But this is not the way that it is, much to the chagrin of Republicans.

The United States is a charitable nation, and as previously reported in Occasional Planet, Republicans are far more charitable than Democrats. But as our recent Occasional Planet public opinion survey shows, the issue is not that Democrats are stingy, rather it is that they see government as the best way to address problems like hunger.

Occasional Planet asked* a random sample of 550 Americans, “In your opinion, what is the best way to address hunger in America?”

Chart-ALL-Addressing-HungerSlightly more saw government assistance rather than charity as the preferable way to solve hunger, however nearly six in ten said that both avenues are of equal value. But as we break it down to various demographic or affiliation groups, we find a clear pattern.

Chart-By-Party-Addressing-Hunger

You can see inside the red ellipse that Republicans are almost ten times as likely as Democrats to think that charity alone is the best way to address hunger in America. Inside the blue ellipse, we see that Democrats are about 2 ½ times as likely as Republicans to think that the best way to address the issue is through government assistance. On all counts, Independents expectedly fall in the middle.

Party affiliation involves a choice. But are demographic factors behind the party affiliations the cause of these differences? First a look at gender:

Chart-By-Gender-Addressing-HungerEven without the ellipses, you can see that the differences are negligible. What about race and ethnicity?

Chart-By-Race-Addressing-HungerThe differences between what Caucasians and minorities think is statistically insignificant.

When it comes to income level, we do see one significant difference:

Chart-By-Income-Addressing-HungerRespondents who live in households with annual incomes of less than $50,000, have only about a third as much confidence in charity as those making over $50,000. This is particularly interesting because the “blue respondents” (those from households with incomes under $50,000 per year), are the very people who are frequently on the receiving end of both charity and government assistance. With only 7% of the blue respondents thinking that charity is the best way to address hunger, it is pretty clear that those who know best do not think that the job can be done best through charity alone.

So here is what we learned from this survey on addressing hunger in America:

  1. Most Americans think that the way to address hunger in America is through a combination of charity and government assistance.
  2. The people in our society who are the poorest and most likely to be recipients of charity and government assistance do not have very much confidence in the effectiveness of charity alone.
  3. By a factor of ten, Republicans are more inclined to favor charity as the sole solution to hunger in America than Democrats are.
  4. Perhaps most importantly, this may be why charitable giving by Republicans is greater than that of either Democrats in the United States or Europeans as a whole. However, the Democratic view that government assistance is a much better way to solve hunger than charity is very consistent with the strong support that Bernie Sanders has received in his presidential bid.

Bernie has touched many nerves in the electorate, and this survey clearly demonstrates that one of them is that his own party is much more supportive of government programs than with voluntary charity.

*Occasional Planet interviewed 550 Americans on January 14-15, 2016, using the services of the online-site Survey Monkey. The sample size is reliable +/- 4.5%, 95% of the time. It is demographically balanced by gender, ethnicity, age, income and geographic region.

 

 

Arthur Lieber Arthur Lieber (391 Posts)

Since 1969, Arthur Lieber has been teaching and working in non-profit educational organizations. His focus has been on promoting critical, creative, and enjoyable learning for students in informal settings. In the 2010 mid-term elections, he was the Democratic nominee for US Congress from Missouri’s 2nd Congressional District.


  • Stacy Mergenthal

    The best thing about these results, IMO, is that both Republicans and Democrats have a desire to help people in poverty. The rightwing rails against “entitlement programs” and favors austerity measures, so it is easy to see them as kind of callous and heartless. But government assistance is so much more efficient than charity, reaching the most number of people for the most impact, usually at the lowest cost. Though we don’t tend to think of the government as being efficient, so this is all a little counter-intuitive.

    The other aspect of government assistance that I prefer: we see time and time again that when we invest in people in such ways, we get a big return on those investments. For example, every $1 in SNAP benefits spent generates nearly twice that in GDP. It doesn’t make sense to keep cutting these benefits when they so successfully stimulate the economy to everyone’s benefit.

    I think government assistance should be the primary means by which we keep poverty and hunger at bay, with charity to supplement.

  • Arthur Lieber

    Stacy, thanks so much as always. It’s great to get responses, but yours are so thoughtful and well-reasoned, I truly appreciate it. And since your comments come early, it means that more people will read them because if we do a good job of Search Engine Optimization (SEO), it means the posts will have long lives. — Arthur
    Arthur H. Lieber | Civitas Associates
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