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People significantly overestimate the number of African-Americans benefiting from the largest programs.

President Donald Trump and Republicans in Congress may soon embark on a racially-fraught policy battle over “welfare.”

“We can lift our citizens from welfare, from dependence to independence, and from poverty to prosperity,” Trump said in his State of the Union address last week, the latest signal that Republicans want “welfare reform” this year.

Trump has often pandered to racists among his supporters. He said Mexico sends “rapists” to the United States and that there were some “fine people” among the neo-Nazis who staged a deadly protest last year in Charlottesville, Virginia. When the president said Mexican heritage made it impossible for a judge to be fair, House Speaker Paul Ryan called it the “textbook definition” of racist.

The word “welfare” is different. It’s a standard political term that Democrats, Republicans and journalists alike use ― though Republicans use it the most often. There’s nothing overtly racialized about welfare. You can even find it in the preamble to the U.S. Constitution.

And yet, the word is often loaded with racial meaning. As a new HuffPost/YouGov survey shows, much of the public has a distorted view of which groups receive the bulk of assistance from government programs. Fifty-nine percent of Americans say either that most welfare recipients are black, or that welfare recipiency is about the same among black and white people.

Americans Are Mistaken About Who Gets Welfare

People significantly overestimate the number of African-Americans benefiting from the largest programs.


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