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Friday, December 9, 2016

When Mitt Romney infamously mused on the 47 percent of Americans who leech off the government, he may have been speaking for about 80 percent of his party.

On Thursday, the Pew Research Center released a wide-ranging survey on political attitudes in an increasingly polarized United States. The survey, which sampled a massive 10,013 adults nationwide between January 23 and March 16, sorted Americans into eight political typologies: steadfast conservatives, business conservatives, solid liberals, young outsiders, hard-pressed skeptics, the next-generation left, the faith-and- family left, and bystanders (you can see where you fit into Pew’s map of the electorate here).

Pew surveyed dozens of questions, but one stands out in particular: When asked if they agree more with the statement that “poor people have hard lives because government benefits don’t go far enough to help them live decently” or “poor people have it easy because they can get government benefits without doing anything,” conservatives overwhelmingly side with the latter.

Chart via Pew Research Center
Chart via Pew Research Center

The political implications of this divide are clear. There’s a reason that Republican politicians insist that unemployment benefits hurt the unemployed, or that food stamps must be cut to prevent the poor from becoming complacent, or coalesce behind budgets that actively attempt to eradicate the social safety net: It’s what the Republican base believes.

So much for compassionate conservatism.

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