Public Views on Government Assistance, Taxes and the Candidates

When the national conversation focuses on class, the social safety net and the distribution of wealth as it has in the past week, the public sees clear differences between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney, and Obama has an overall advantage. People are more likely to say Obama's policies would help the middle class and poor, while Romney's policies are generally seen as helping the rich.

Yet there are aspects of both candidates' arguments on these issues that resonate with the public. Majorities believe that many poor people are too dependent on government assistance, and that the government can't afford to do more for the poor than it is already doing. But most also hold that the government has a responsibility to care for those in need and that upper-income—not lower-income— people are not paying their fair share in taxes.

In a July 2012 Pew Research survey, 71% of adults nationwide said if Romney were elected president, his policies would likely benefit wealthy people. Four-in-ten said Romney's policies would help middle class people, and only 31% said Romney's policies would help the poor.

Read the full report, Where the Public Stands on Government Assistance, Taxes and the Presidential Candidates, on the Pew Research Center's Social & Demographic Trends website.