Americans divided on banning panhandling

October 14, 2013, 7:55 PM GMT+0

Most Americans think that homelessness is a result of people making poor choices and are divided on whether or not it should be illegal to panhandle.

Last week a court in Arizona ruled that Flagstaff's law banning 'panhandling' - begging for money in public - was unconstitutional, though courts have upheld laws that ban 'aggressive' panhandling, where people are pressured into giving money. The case highlights the great differences in how different cities and states treat homelessness across the country, with some cities having a 'right' to have a sheltered bed at night and allowing people to panhandle freely.

The latest research from YouGov shows that Americans are largely divided on whether or not it should be illegal to panhandle, with 30% supporting these laws and 34% opposing them. In general, people in the Northeast (39%) are the most likely to oppose these laws. The West is not only home to many municipalities that have banned panhandling, but it is also the only region where people are more likely to support (35%) than oppose (29%) making it illegal to panhandle.

Part of this difference may be accounted for by how often people encounter the homeless in their communities. 73% of people in the West say that they 'occasionally' or 'frequently' encounter the homeless, while only 38% of people in the Northeast say the same. This may be accounted for by whether or not governments provide shelter to the homeless - New York and Boston both provide shelter to over 90% of their homeless, while more than half of the homeless in Los Angeles and San Francisco have no shelter.

Asked whether people who were homeless were homeless largely because of their own choices or because they had a bad start in life, a majority of Americans (55%) said that it was because of their own choices. People were, however, evenly split (40% vs 40%) on whether or not having a bad start was also a major factor.

When people were asked whether they give money to the homeless, and how much they usually give, people with college degrees (46%) were the most likely to say that they never give money to the homeless, while people without a high school diploma (28%) were the least likely. 33% of people say that they give money to the homeless, but that they give a dollar or less. 23% say that they give over a dollar to panhandlers.

Full poll results can be found here.

Image: Getty.

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