Data Journalist

Most Americans trust government benefits programs to operate correctly, according to a YouGov survey, but they don’t trust the Americans applying for those programs to not lie about their eligibility in order to receive benefits.

Welfare or benefits fraud, the act of misrepresenting information in order to access government benefits, isn’t actually that common, but people trust benefit recipients (or applicants) less than they do the administrators of six government entitlement programs, according to people surveyed by YouGov.

At least half of US adults say they trust benefits programs including Medicare (57%), Social Security (55%), Children’s Health Insurance Program (52%) and Medicaid (50%). Those programs are trailed by the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (47%) and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (40%) in the number of people who trust them. 

Nearly six in 10 US adults (59%) believe it is “very common” or “somewhat common” for people to lie and/or misrepresent their eligibility in order to benefit from the SNAP, a federal program to help low-income families purchase healthy food. 

Experts say that deliberate SNAP fraud is uncommon because of the rigorous application process and multi-step eligibility review. In 2016, the Congressional Research Service determined that for every 10,000 households participating in SNAP, about 14 contained a recipient who was investigated and determined to have committed fraud.

Half of US adults say it is very or somewhat common for people to lie and/or misrepresent their eligibility in TANF (50%) and Medicaid (46%) programs. More than one-third of people say the same about CHIP (40%), Social Security (36%), and Medicare (36%). 

Social Security and Medicare are the only two programs noted where panelists say it is more uncommon than common for people to misrepresent their eligibility. Nearly half of US adults (46%) say Social Security fraud is “not very common” or “not at all common,” and 46 percent say the same about Medicare.

Most Americans believe the government provides “too much” public assistance to the rich (59%) and “not enough” to the middle class (53%) or the poor (51%). But, while most Americans say the lower economic classes are not given enough support through government programs, there is not overwhelming support for increased funding to those organizations.

Most Americans say the government provides too much assistance to the rich, and not enough to the poor and middle class

Over half of Americans believe Social Security (57%) and Medicare (52%) should be given more funding. Four in 10 believe that Medicaid (44%) and the CHIP (42%) deserve more money allocated to them. More than one-third say the same about the SNAP (38%) and TANF (36%).

At least half of Democrats believe all six of the government entitlement programs listed deserve more funds, while a majority of Republicans only agree that Social Security should be funded at a higher level. Three in 10 Republicans say SNAP should be given less funding (28%) and another 30 percent say funding levels should remain as-is. One in 10 Republicans supports eliminating the program altogether.

57% of Democrats believe SNAP should get more funding while 21% of Republicans agree

Related: Should Puerto Rico become America's 51st state? Most say yes

What are your thoughts on funding government programs? Sign up for our panel and see the full survey results here

Methodology: Total unweighted sample size was 1,261 US adults. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all US adults (ages 18+). Interviews were conducted online in English between July 31 - August 1, 2019. For the purposes of the survey, panelists were provided a definition of what each government program does.

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