A study finds that eight-in-ten voters favor boosting Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits, formerly known as ‘food stamps.’ Very large majorities also backed proposals for not allowing SNAP benefits to be used for candy and sodas, and for providing incentives to encourage SNAP beneficiaries to eat more fruits and vegetables. 

The results were released today by Voice Of the People, a nonpartisan organization that does not take a position on legislation, but works to give the people a greater voice in policy making decisions.

The proposals for SNAP reform explored were based on legislative proposals that have been made in Congress over the last two years. A national survey of more than 7,000 voters explored these proposals in depth, including the arguments against them.

In the survey, which was conducted by the University of Maryland’s Program for Public Consultation (PPC), when respondents were told about current levels of SNAP benefits for specific types of cases, large majorities favored increasing the benefits.

Told that recipients living alone, earning on average $542 a month, get $140 a month in benefits, 81 percent favored raising the benefit level (Republicans 66 percent, Democrats 93 percent) with the majority raising it 43 percent to $200.

Told that a single mother with one child, earning on average $760 a month, get $253 a month in benefits, 78 percent favored raising the benefit level (Republicans 62 percent, Democrats 91 percent) with the majority raising it 19 percent to $300.

Currently, H.R. 1276 calls for increasing the minimum SNAP benefits.

“It’s interesting that Americans embrace both liberal and conservative ideas for SNAP benefits—making them both more generous and more restricted,” said PPC Director Steven Kull. “There is quite a lot of bipartisan agreement on this issue.” 

Whether SNAP benefits should be permitted to be used for foods that are low in nutritional values or even unhealthy has generated much controversy. Various states have requested permission to restrict the use of SNAP benefits for non-nutritious food items. Legislation has been proposed to impose the same restrictions on SNAP benefits as there has been for the Women and Infant Children (WIC) program, which would have the effect of disallowing such items.

The survey found overwhelming bipartisan support for limiting what SNAP benefits can be used for. Seventy-six percent (Republicans 85 percent, Democrats 68 percent) favored disallowing the purchase of candy with SNAP benefits, while 73 percent (Republicans 82 percent, Democrats 67 percent) wanted to disallow sweetened soda. A majority overall (59 percent), but not a majority of Democrats, favored disallowing cookies, cakes and doughnuts. On the other hand, a majority favored allowing chips and snack crackers and ice cream. Thus, the majority does not go as far as proposed legislation restricting allowable foods to WIC standards.

An overwhelming nine-in-ten, including eight-in-ten Republicans, also favored providing discounts on fruit and vegetables bought with SNAP benefits.

An additional controversial issue addressed was over how much savings beneficiaries can have and still be eligible for the SNAP program. When told that the amount of savings a household can have and still receive SNAP benefits is $2,250, a slight majority overall favored keeping the requirement as it is, but a majority of Democrats favored raising the permitted level.

The survey was conducted online with a national probability-based sample of 7,128 registered voters, provided by Nielsen Scarborough from its sample of respondents, recruited by mail and telephone using a random sample of households. The margin of error was +/-1.2 percent. The questions on the SNAP benefits discussed herein are part of a larger survey on Federal poverty programs that will be released in the next weeks.  

The study was unique in that respondents received a short briefing on the proposals for reforming federal poverty programs and evaluated strongly-stated arguments both for and against each option before making their final recommendations. The briefing and the pro and con arguments were developed and reviewed by key Republican and Democratic staffers who deal with these issues from the Senate Finance Committee and the House Ways and Means Committee. Additional specialists were consulted representing the spectrum of opinion on the issues.

The sample also included samples of approximately 400 or more from eight states—Texas, North Carolina, Florida, Ohio, Virginia, California, Maryland and New York. Despite the range from very red to very blue, the results in all the states were largely the same as the national sample.

A report of the SNAP benefits findings can be found at: http://vop.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/SNAP_Report.pdf

The survey’s questionnaire can be found at: http://vop.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/SNAP_Quaire.pdf


Now that the Republican leadership in the House has failed in its effort to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act (ACA), attention has turned back to the question of whether states that have not acceded to ACA’s Medicaid expansion will do so. Nineteen states have not elected to expand Medicaid and receive the federal support that would be provided. The results were released today by Voice Of the People.

However a large, in-depth survey finds that more than six-in-ten voters living in states that have not opted for Medicaid expansion would like their state to do so, including  those in Virginia, North Carolina, Texas, Florida and Oklahoma. 

The survey of more than 7,000 registered voters, conducted by the University of Maryland’s Program for Public Consultation (PPC), briefed respondents on the ACA plan that gives states the option of expanding Medicaid with Federal help. They evaluated strongly-stated arguments in favor and against the idea of their state accepting this plan. The content of the briefing and the pro and con arguments were reviewed by Congressional staffers from both parties and other experts across the spectrum of opinion on the issue. 

When asked if they want their state to opt for Medicaid expansion, 64 percent nationally are in favor. Among those who live in states that had already opted for Medicaid expansion, 65 percent approve. Sixty-two percent favor expansion, among those who live in states that have not opted for expansion. 

Because the sample is so large, it includes samples of 400 or more in eight states, affording the opportunity to assess views in those specific states. In all cases majorities favor expansion, ranging from 65-69 percent. 

Four of the eight states sampled were ones which have not opted for Medicaid expansion. In all of these four cases large majorities favor expansion including in Virginia (69 percent), Texas (67 percent), North Carolina (66 percent), and Florida (67 percent). In Oklahoma, which had a smaller sample of 307, 63 percent approve. 

“Though a modest majority of Republicans are opposed, a clear majority overall favors Medicaid expanding in the states that have not done so,” said PPC Director Steven Kull.

Support for expansion is not bipartisan. Nationally, 56 percent of Republicans oppose expansion, while 84 percent of Democrats and 63 percent of independents favor it. 

Respondent were presented an argument in favor of Medicaid expansion emphasizing the needs of low income people for medical insurance and the inefficiency of providing services to the poor via emergency rooms was found convincing by three quarters nationally, including 64 percent of Republicans and 87 percent of Democrats. Across the eight states the majorities finding it convincing ranged from 72 percent in North Carolina to 81 percent in Maryland. 

The argument against Medicaid expansion emphasized that the state would be taking on a new responsibility and that the Federal government might not continue to provide support putting onerous demands on the state and possibly crowding out other priorities. This argument was found convincing by 54 percent overall, including 70 percent of Republicans, but just 39 percent of Democrats. Across the eight states, the percentage finding this argument convincing ranged from 47 percent in North Carolina to 56 percent in Ohio and California. 

These questions were part of a larger survey on poverty programs that will be released at a later date. 

The survey was fielded Nov. 11, 2016 – Jan. 18, 2017. The panel of 7,128 respondents was drawn from Nielsen-Scarborough’s probability-based national panel, which was recruited by mail and telephone using a random sample of households. Additional recruiting by telephone and mail was conducted by Communications for Research. The margin of error is +/- 1.2 percent. State samples: Calif. 682 (MoE +/- 3.8 percent); Fla. 423 (+/- 4.8 percent); Md. 486 (+/- 4.4 percent); N.C. 402 (+/- 4.9 percent); N.Y. 401 (+/- 4.9 percent); Ohio 509 (+/- 4.3 percent); Texas 398 (+/- 4.9 percent); and Va. 463 (+/- 4.6 percent). Oklahoma had a smaller sample of 307 (+/-5.6 percent).

A report providing a more thorough description of the survey can be seen here: http://vop.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/Medicaid_Expansion.pdf 

The questionnaire can be seen here:  http://vop.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/Medicaid_Expansion_Quaire.pdf 

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