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Abstract

This paper examines American national public opinion on welfare, welfare recipients, and the government's role in welfare programs. The data were gathered from published public opinion polls of national samples of adults taken between 1938 and 1995. The findings indicate that public opinion has remained relatively stable over this 57-year period, with the majority of Americans believing that the government has a responsibility to help those in need. At the same time, the majority of those polled believed that the government spends too much on welfare. The findings also show that the public is in favor of reducing income differences between the rich and the poor. During this period, poll data indicate that a growing percentage of Americans believe that laziness and lack of motivation to work are the main causes of poverty. The data indicate that approximately half of all Americans believe that welfare recipients could get along without their welfare benefits. These findings are discussed in light of current political attitudes toward social welfare and recent change and proposed changes in welfare programs.

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