Most Americans Want Tougher Food-Stamp Requirements

National Journal poll finds two in three people think the biggest problems with the program are waste, fraud, and abuse.

NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 18: A woman and her daughter counts out Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) coupons, more commonly known as Food Stamps, while shoping for groceries in the GrowNYC Greenmarket in Union Square on September 18, 2013 in New York City. According to a Gallup poll released earlier this month, 20% of American adults struggled to buy enough food at some point in the last year. The rate of hungry people in America has gone relatively unchanged since 2008, suggesting the economic recovery since the 2008 recession may be disproportionately affecting the wealthy. More than 50 of GrowNYC's Greenmarket's now accept EBT; over $800,000 in sales were complete with EBT payment at the Greenmarket's in 2012. GrowNYC is also currently offering a program known as Health Bucks: for ever $5 spent using EBT at a Greenmarket, GrowNYC provides an additional $2, which can be spent specifically on fresh fruits and vegetables. 
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Alex Roarty
Dec. 18, 2013, 3:44 p.m.

Driv­en by a strong sense the food-stamp pro­gram is rife with ab­use, two-thirds of Amer­ic­ans say they want to make it harder for people to re­ceive as­sist­ance by re­quir­ing re­cip­i­ents to be drug-free and look­ing for work.

A Na­tion­al Journ­al poll found broad sup­port for tightened eli­gib­il­ity. Even Demo­crats, tra­di­tion­ally res­ist­ant to lim­it­ing ac­cess to so­cial-wel­fare pro­grams, are split: 45 per­cent of them sup­port the change while 49 per­cent do not.

The res­ults sug­gest that the coun­try wel­comes Re­pub­lic­an ef­forts to cut and re­form the Sup­ple­ment­al Nu­tri­tion As­sist­ance Pro­gram, a rar­ity for a party at odds with pub­lic opin­ion on is­sues like gun con­trol, en­ti­tle­ment re­form, and im­mig­ra­tion. Demo­crats’ op­pos­i­tion, mean­while, shows they’re squarely out of step with the pub­lic.

Re­spond­ents were asked how they felt about changes to the food-stamp pro­gram like tight­en­ing eli­gib­il­ity, lim­it­ing how long be­ne­fi­ciar­ies can col­lect, in­creas­ing work re­quire­ments, and ad­min­is­ter­ing drug tests. They were told the Con­gres­sion­al Budget Of­fice es­tim­ated such changes would re­duce its rolls by 4 mil­lion people.

If the pre­dicted re­mov­al of that many people failed to change minds, it’s be­cause the pub­lic thinks many be­ne­fi­ciar­ies don’t de­serve the be­ne­fits they re­cord. Asked what the biggest prob­lem with food stamps was, 66 per­cent of people said there was “too much waste, fraud, and ab­use” — by far the most pop­u­lar of the five op­tions lis­ted.

An­oth­er 12 per­cent said too many people were eli­gible to re­ceive as­sist­ance.

Only 6 per­cent of re­spond­ents said too few were on the pro­gram, while 9 per­cent said the be­ne­fits were too small.

National Journal poll showing almost all parties in support of new rules for the nation's food-stamp program; however, Democrats' views are split down the middle. (Stephanie Stamm) Stephanie Stamm

Na­tion­al Journ­al poll show­ing al­most all parties in sup­port of new rules for the na­tion’s food-stamp pro­gram; however, Demo­crats’ views are split down the middle. (Stephanie Stamm)Even 57 per­cent of Demo­crats lis­ted waste as the pro­gram’s biggest li­ab­il­ity. A plur­al­ity — 47 per­cent — of Afric­an-Amer­ic­ans did the same.

Food-stamp us­age has bal­looned since the Great Re­ces­sion, from 32 mil­lion to 47 mil­lion. The pub­lic is re­l­at­ively split on wheth­er this surge is be­cause of loose eli­gib­il­ity re­quire­ments or the slow pace of the eco­nom­ic re­cov­ery — 23 per­cent blame eli­gib­il­ity stand­ards while 34 per­cent say the eco­nomy is the cul­prit. A plur­al­ity, 41 per­cent, say both are to blame.

That’s a 22-point shift from the same sur­vey taken in early June: Then, only 12 per­cent blamed loose eli­gib­il­ity re­quire­ments while 45 per­cent fingered the slow eco­nom­ic re­cov­ery.

The poll was con­duc­ted by land­line and cell-phone in­ter­views with a na­tion­ally rep­res­ent­at­ive sample of 1,000 adults by Prin­ceton Sur­vey Re­search As­so­ci­ates In­ter­na­tion­al from Dec. 12-15. The mar­gin of er­ror is plus or minus 3.6 per­cent­age points.


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