I’m okay with “poor people”; “people on welfare” not so much

When I teach public opinion in my Intro class, I do two versions of a short little survey I made up to show the power of question wording.  Consistently, the most dramatic effect I get is support for federal spending for “poor people” in contrast to spending for “people of welfare.”  I love the looks I get when I ask them to consider that the vast majority of people on welfare are, well, you know, poor people.  I love that Drum just discovered that GSS has been asking both of these questions and made a nice little graph of it:

Lots of takeaways from this, but, as much as anything, 1) the power of political framing and; and 2) the need to be skeptical of any single public opinion question.

About Steve Greene
Professor of Political Science at NC State http://faculty.chass.ncsu.edu/shgreene

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