Buttons are displayed by a vendor at a Republican National Committee meeting, April 20, 2012 in Scottsdale, Arizona.
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Most Republicans think poverty caused by laziness, new poll finds

Updated

A slight majority of Republicans believe that laziness is to blame for poverty in American, according to a new poll out Thursday.

The new Pew poll finds that 51% of Republicans agreed that “lack of effort on his or her part” was the primary reason that a poor person would find his or herself in poverty, while only 32% put the blame on “circumstances beyond his or her control.” Conversely, Democrats are more likely to blame circumstances rather than a lack of effort, 63% to 29%. Independent voters track more closely to Democrats on this issue as well, with 51% blaming circumstances and 33% blaming laziness for poverty. 

Republicans are also more likely to attribute affluence to hard work than circumstances. When asked if the main cause of a rich person’s wealth was his or her hard work or “advantages,” 57% of Republicans pointed to hard work, while just over a third picked advantages. Again, Democrats were more likely to say greater advantages are the primary factor causing someone to be rich, with 63% naming that compared to just 27% saying it’s because that person has worked harder than others. 

Those splits hold up when asked about economic fairness. When asked if the American economic system is “generally fair” or favors the wealthy, 75% to 25% Democrats are more likely to say it favors the wealthy. Republicans are slightly more likely to say the system is fair for most, although the split is smaller, with 42% saying the system “unfairly favors the wealthy.”

But despite the differences in what causes inequality, Americans definitely agree that it exists and is worse than ever. Overall 65% believe the gap between rich and everyone else has grown over the last decade, with 61% of Republicans, 68% of Democrats, and 67% of Independents agreeing. One quarter of those polled said the gap has stayed about the same, and a mere 8% say it has increased, with comparable similarities across party. 

When asked about the solution, the partisan split spikes. Democrats are twice as likely as Republicans to say the government should do a lot to fix the issue of inequality, 90% to 45%. Meanwhile, 48% of Republicans want the government to do little to nothing, compared to only 10% of Democrats. Independents lean toward government action, albeit not as strongly as Democrats, with a little more than two-thirds wanting either some or a lot of action, and fewer than three in ten calling for little to none. 

Those numbers might help explain why Republicans have begun talking about policy solutions to help the poor in recent weeks.

When polled as a whole, Americans are more pessimistic about what many the American Dream. When asked if most people can get ahead in life with hard work and perseverance, 60% said yes and 38% said no. While optimism on this issue has grown slightly (by 2%) since 2012, it’s still far lower than in 1999, when 74% of those polled said yes. 

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Most Republicans think poverty caused by laziness, new poll finds

Updated