If 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?”
Slightly 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.
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:
When it comes to income level, we do see one significant difference:
Respondents 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:
- Most Americans think that the way to address hunger in America is through a combination of charity and government assistance.
- 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.
- By a factor of ten, Republicans are more inclined to favor charity as the sole solution to hunger in America than Democrats are.
- 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.