Is skepticism toward government programs growing in a key liberal demographic? The Washington Post reports on new research finding that African Americans have become more hostile to government programs—even those they benefit from. Here’s the gist of the findings, contained in a report presented at the Brookings Institution:
Blacks are still far more supportive of governmental redistribution than the population as a whole. The elderly used to be as supportive, but now they are more likely to be opposed. What’s more, opposition is growing among these groups to the kinds of redistributive policies that benefit them in particular. Blacks have become more opposed to the idea that the government should help members of racial minorities. The elderly are increasingly adamant that the government should not provide health insurance — despite their fondness for Medicare, a federal program […]Whatever the reason, when asked specifically whether the government should do more to help blacks and members of other minorities, blacks have become more likely to say that it should not.
It’s not clear exactly why the attitudes are shifting this way. The Washington Post story offers some partial explanations—for instance, seniors may oppose health care insurance expansion because they think it will hurt their Medicare plans. But these explanations don’t account for all the data described in the Brookings report. Perhaps part of these trends is just another aspect of growing distrust in government and the experts that run it. We’ve noted that homeschooling, for example, which is rising among African Americans, is a vote of no confidence in public schools and the teachers who staff them. In his essay on the death of the “emerging democratic majority,” John Judis provided further support for this thinking by looking at the recent midterm results and other factors shaping American politics. Judis argues that middle-class Asians and Hispanics are poised to break right in greater numbers than people once expected, and that millennials in particular “[lack] confidence in government” at greater rates now.Perhaps the Brookings data reflects these attitudes—and if so, that could be welcome news for the GOP. It’s not likely that either of these groups really does want cuts to the government support they currently get. But they apparently will say they don’t want more government programs, and the big question is whether they will vote accordingly. That’s a question on which a good deal of American politics could depend.