(CN) – Most Americans believe the federal government does not do enough to help the elderly, poor people and the middle class, the Pew Research Center reported Tuesday, and a majority also says the wealthy get too much support.
Sixty-five percent of Americans overall said that older people do not receive enough support from the federal government, 62 percent said the same of poor people, and 61 percent said that of the middle class, according to the Pew Research study based on a survey of 1,503 adults between Jan. 10-15.
A 64-percent majority also said the wealthy receive too much help.
Survey respondents had mixed feelings on the support that young people receive from the government. Fifty-one percent said younger people are helped too little, 29 percent said they receive the right amount of support and 13 percent said they get too much help from the federal government.
While party affiliations and income brackets made some difference in respondents' answers, no majority in any category said that wealthy people don’t get enough support from the federal government.
Seventy-seven percent of Democrats said the wealthy get too much help, and only 4 percent said they don’t get enough. Only 6 percent of Republican respondents said the wealthy don’t get enough help, and 46 percent of them said the government gives the wealthy too much support, according to the Pew report. Fifty-eight percent of low-income Republicans said the same.
While they are closer in agreement regarding the middle class and the wealthy, Democrats and Republicans were most divided in their opinions on government assistance for the poor.
Eighty-two percent of Democrats say that the federal government does not do enough for the poor, while only 36 percent of Republicans said the same. Twenty-seven percent of Republicans said the poor receive the right amount of help and 33 percent said they get too much.
Perhaps not surprisingly, Republicans making less than $40,000 annually were the GOP demographic most sympathetic to the poor, with 47 percent of respondents in that category saying the poor don’t get enough government support.
Since the formation of the modern GOP, particularly during and after the Ronald Reagan administration, Republicans in Congress have widely rejected so-called entitlement expansions, and many have advocated for either significant cuts or eliminating social programs entirely.
Decades of opposition to social programs lends itself to Republican respondents' mixed feelings regarding federal help for the poor. However, those mixed feelings could indicate that GOP-backed entitlement cuts may not be as popular with their base as in past decades.
Republican respondents in the Pew survey aligned slightly more closely with Democrats regarding the middle class and older people.
Majorities of both parties indicated that older people do not receive enough federal assistance – 58 percent of Republicans and 73 percent of Democrats, according to Pew.
Fifty-one percent of Republicans overall said the middle class does not receive enough federal help, which was bolstered by 59 percent of low-income Republicans who said the same. Forty-seven percent of Republicans making more than $75,000 a year said the middle class receives the right amount of support from the government.
Zero percent of middle-class Democrats said their demographic receives the right amount of federal support, while 70 percent of Democrats overall said the middle class doesn’t get enough help.
The stronger show of sympathy for the middle class from Democratic respondents could be tied to progressive policy stances in the party platform, including increased spending on entitlement programs and a higher minimum wage.
Based on Republicans' lukewarm stance toward federal help for the poor, increased spending on public programs may not receive as much resistance from conservative voters, particularly those in lower income brackets.
In another Pew study released this month, Republican respondents mostly supported the recently passed Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, but poor Republicans had a more tepid response. Less than half (43 percent) of Republicans making less than $40,000 a year said the new law would have a positive effect on their family, compared to 62 percent making more than $75,000 annually.