CHARLESTON, W.Va. — West Virginians continue to be skeptical of government and whether it can improve everyday life for individuals, but there appear to be some generational differences in that view.
The latest version of the MetroNews Dominion Post West Virginia Poll deals with the role of government.
“A majority of people believe government is generally wasteful and inefficient – unless you happen to be between the ages of 18 to 34,” said professional Rex Repass, author of the West Virginia Poll.
The West Virginia Poll surveyed 404 people likely, registered voters from all 55 counties. The survey was conducted between Aug.16-26.
The poll asked respondents to answer which statement comes closest to their view.
Overall, 69 percent of respondents said “Government is almost always wasteful and inefficient.”
Just 31 percent agreed that “Government often does a better job than people give it credit for.”
Respondents aged 18 to 34 differed a bit from the overall sample, giving government roughly an even split. Of the youngest respondents, 51 percent described government as inefficient and 49 percent gave it more credit.
“With younger people, there is this trend toward an increasing role of government in the lives of people, particularly people in lower-income categories and people more in need, which kind of aligns with what we hear nationally with younger people or social democratic politics,” Repass said.
More questions asked people’s views on how government affects the poor. Respondents again were asked to select the statement best reflecting their view.
Fifty-nine percent said government aid to the poor does more good than harm because people can’t get out of poverty until their basic needs are met.
On the other hand, 41 percent agreed that government aid does more harm than good by making people dependent on government assistance.
The widest gap was among ages 18 to 34, where 68 percent suggested government aid is beneficial and 32 percent said it contributes to dependence.
“So some of these other questions we’ve looked at as we look at younger demographics you see more of a belief that government should be playing a bigger role in different aspects of life, including helping the poor,” Repass said.
A final question about how government policies affect the poor resulted in a split.
Fifty percent agreed “Poor people have it easy because they can get government benefits without doing anything in return.”
The other half of respondents agreed, “Poor people have hard lives because government benefits don’t go far enough to help them live decently.”
Again, there was an age differentiation with only 41 percent of respondents 18 to 34 years old suggesting poor people have it easy and 59 percent expressing the other view.
The overall totals on that question have changed significantly since it was asked four years ago.
Back then, 69 percent of respondents suggested poor people have it easy while only 31 percent said government benefits don’t go far enough to help them.
“What I also see is at least maybe the beginning of a trend with younger people who are more liberal, thinking about these issues differently, and some of that is reflected in these attitudinal statements we’re looking at, whether it’s government’s role in society or government’s role in world affairs or some of the more social issues such as same sex marriage or other related topics,” Repass said.
“You see possibly a little bit of a pendulum swing back to what I would call more progressive points of view.”