By Jeremy Slevin / 05.05.2016
Public support for fighting poverty is growing.
A much–publicized poll from Harvard’s Institute of Politics last week finds that millennials increasingly favor government action to reduce poverty and expand opportunity. In fact, 47 percent of those between the ages of 18-29 agree that “basic necessities, such as food and shelter, are a right that government should provide to those unable to afford them.” That’s up from 43 percent last year and 42 percent in 2014. A similar number of millennials—45 percent—believe the government should spend more to reduce poverty. That’s a dramatic increase from the 40 percent who shared this view in 2015, and the 35 percent who did in 2013.
But what the media missed in covering this poll is that these numbers actually understate the broad, bipartisan support for key safety net programs that help low- and moderate-income Americans.
A Vox/Morning Consult poll last month found that 60 percent of people ages 18-29 would be willing to pay additional taxes to fund “welfare benefits, such as help for women with infants or children, or nutrition programs”—significantly higher support than the Harvard findings. A majority—51 percent—would also pay more taxes to provide additional income assistance for those living below the poverty line.
Moreover, support for antipoverty programs is not limited to younger voters. 53 percent of Gen Xers—those between the ages of 45 and 54—support more benefit funding for women, infants or children. And when it comes to Social Security, a majority of voters in every age group would be willing to pay additional taxes to fund the program—including 56 percent of millennials. In fact, a Pew poll this year found that 54 percent of respondents from all age groups think aiding those in poverty should be a “top priority” for Congress and the President this year.