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Study: Both rich and poor hate welfare

KNOXVILLE, Tenn., Oct. 26 (UPI) -- When the gap between the haves and have-nots expands, as it has in recent years, the have-nots do not want government to help them, U.S. researchers say.

Nate Kelly of the University of Tennessee in Knoxville and Peter Enns of Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y., conducted a study analyzing economic inequality and public opinion toward government intervention, and found as the rich become richer and the poor become poorer, both sides reduce their support for government programs such as welfare.

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As a result, the economic gap widens, making economic inequality a self-perpetuating phenomenon, the authors say.

"When inequality in America rises, both the rich and the poor become more conservative in their ideologies," Kelly says in a statement. "It is counterintuitive, but rather than generating opinion shifts that would make redistributive policies more likely, increased economic inequality produces a conservative response in public sentiment."

The researchers analyzed economic inequality and public opinion toward government intervention by looking at hundreds of thousands of responses to survey questions from 1952 to 2006.

"We find that economic inequality is self-reinforcing, not due to lack of responsiveness to the poor, but to how the preferences of both the rich and the poor respond to changes in income inequality," Kelly says. "Subjects who were poor were explicitly asked if they thought the government spent too much money on welfare and more of them answered 'yes' during times of high inequality."

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The researchers say they are working to find the causes of the surprising finding.

The findings are published in the Journal of Political Science.

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