British Journal of Political Science



Research Article

A Culture of Dependence? The Relationship Between Public Assistance and Public Opinion


SAUNDRA K.  SCHNEIDER  a1 and WILLIAM G.  JACOBY  a1
a1 Department of Government and International Studies, University of South Carolina, Columbia.

Abstract

In the United States it is widely believed that public assistance may have harmful effects on the social and political orientations of those who receive it. Certain kinds of government support – particularly welfare – may foster a ‘culture of dependence’ comprising values and beliefs that are different from, and perhaps contrary to, the predominant American political culture. We examine the relationship between government assistance and public opinion using survey data taken from the 1992 CPS National Election Study. Our empirical results show that welfare benefits do have some effect on issue attitudes. But recipients of public aid are virtually identical to non-recipients in terms of their core values, reactions to the political system and general beliefs about American society. There is no evidence that a distinctive ‘culture of dependence’ has developed among people who rely on financial support from the federal government.