Survey: 55 Percent Of Americans Have Received Federal Benefits

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A bipartisan majority of Americans have received federal benefits at some point in their lives. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

A bipartisan majority of Americans have received federal benefits at some point in their lives. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

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WASHINGTON (CBS DC) – A new survey shows that a majority of Americans (55 percent) have received government benefits from at least one of the major federal entitlement programs.

As the debates over federal spending continue between Democrats and Republicans in Washington, the recent Pew Research Center survey finds that majorities from both parties have benefited from at least one of the following programs: Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, welfare, unemployment benefits or food stamps.

The survey finds that 60 percent of self-identifying Democrats and 52 percent of self-identifying Republicans have benefited from one of the six major federal programs.

Of those who voted for President Obama last month, 59 percent say they’ve benefited from a major entitlement program. It also finds that 53 percent of those who supported Mitt Romney have benefited from a major entitlement program.

The use of these programs begins at an early age for many Americans, and continues to steadily rise with age.

A third (33 percent) of all adults ages 18 to 29 say they have received at least one major entitlement payment or service in their lives. Among those ages 30-49, nearly 45 percent reported usage, and the numbers become almost universal (97 percent) among people ages 65 and older – the age which allows most adults to qualify for Medicare and Social Security benefits.

The survey also finds that 57 percent of Americans say it is the government’s responsibility to care for those who cannot take care of themselves, a view that is only slightly more prevalent among those who have ever received an entitlement benefit (60 percent) than among those who have not (55 percent).

The Pew survey was conducted by telephone from Nov. 28 to Dec. 5, 2012 among a nationally representative sample of 2,511 adults. Respondents were asked if they or a member of their household had ever received Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, food stamps, welfare or unemployment benefits.

According to the survey, 32 percent of all adults have received two or more benefits, including 15 percent who have received three or more.

Blacks are more likely than whites or Hispanics to have received three or more benefits (27 percent vs. 14 percent for whites and 11 percent for Hispanics).

As a whole, the six programs referenced in the survey generate the vast majority of federal spending – the so-called “social safety net.”

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