The majority of Americans want even higher amounts of food aid for struggling families, according to a new poll from the Save the Children Action Network.
The survey, shared exclusively to The Hill, could be a warning sign for conservatives seeking to cut payments under the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) as part of the discussion on a new farm bill this year.
“It’s important to note: If anything, most people would opt to increase benefits. Only 4 percent wanted to decrease them,” said Lori Weigel, who runs the polling firm New Bridge Strategy, which interviewed Republicans for the bipartisan results.
Liberal polling firm Hart Research rounded out the survey on the Democratic side.
Weigel said that the “vast majority of people — across party lines for basically every policy that we tested [to increase the reach of SNAP] was saying, ‘Yeah, that sounds like common sense and something we should be doing.’”
“This is not partisan in the eyes of voters,” she added.
SNAP makes up 80 percent of the spending for the Farm Bill, which also provides crop insurance and conservation programs for farmers. Conservatives eyeing reductions in spending have discussed cuts to all those programs.
Tougher work requirements for SNAP were included in the debt ceiling deal approved by Congress and signed into law by President Biden. Polls do show support for such requirements, and the Save the Children Action Network poll suggests cuts could spark a backlash.
About 85 percent of voters surveyed said that the government should do more to help those struggling to pay for groceries, including 53 percent who said policymakers should do “much more.”
Perhaps most strikingly, the respondents support bolstering SNAP even while they overestimate how generous the program’s payments are currently. On average, respondents thought recipients get $50 per day for food — with the median estimate being $20. The actual number is more like $6 per person.
Other research suggests that this money doesn’t go far enough. In 78 percent of counties, SNAP benefits don’t cover the cost of a “moderately-priced meal” cooked at home, according to the nonprofit Robert Wood Johnson foundation. Such a meal costs $3.14 nationwide, that report found — while SNAP benefits top out at $2.75 per meal.
Weigel said the broad sympathy for SNAP recipients came from the surprising number of respondents who had friends or families who had benefited from the program, and widespread concern over rising food prices — something that 85 percent of people see as a serious issue.
Weigel’s polling found that support for SNAP was significantly stronger among Democrats — but that a majority of Republicans nonetheless supported the program and opposed cuts in benefits.
More than 50 percent of Republicans told the pollsters that SNAP benefits were too low — and said they would look unfavorably upon representatives who sought to reduce them further.
And about two-thirds of white men without college degrees and rural residents — both key Republican constituencies — said they would “feel less favorable” toward even their own representatives if they voted to reduce SNAP.
The poll also found widespread support for programs to help SNAP recipients make their dollars go further — including one that doubles recipients’ money if they spent it on fruits, vegetables and healthy foods, an idea that 94 percent of recipients supported.
Meanwhile, 87 percent supported policies making it easier to apply for SNAP benefits remotely; 83 percent supported the existing programs that allow doctors to “prescribe” free fruits and vegetables, and 70 percent would like to see SNAP recipients have to fill out less paperwork.
The poll results suggest that opposition to SNAP could hurt Republicans, and Democrats have already begun to target “many of those vulnerable Republicans for their support of the debt deal and the new SNAP restrictions in it,” according to Politico.
In the campaigns to come, those who are able to talk of dollars and cents may have the edge over those who talk of billion and trillions, Weigel said.
New Bridge’s polling found that respondents had far more concern for families struggling to make ends meet than for abstract questions around the size of the debt.
At her firm, “we test budgets [with focus groups] and we’re testing, you know, millions, billions trillions of dollars. And that means so little to people.”
By contrast, respondents “understand what it costs to go grocery shopping. People, like, they know what the price of eggs is, right? As George Bush Sr. found out, they know the cost of a gallon of milk, right?”
“And when you break it out like they’re that they’re like, ‘Wait a minute. Wow, how can, you know, how can someone make that work?’”
—Updated at 6 p.m.