In 1995, in the midst of a raging political debate about welfare and poverty, less than a third of poll respondents said people were in poverty because of issues beyond their control. At that time, a majority said that poverty was caused by "people not doing enough." Now, nearly half of respondents, 47 percent, attribute poverty to factors other than individual initiative.Go figure. It turns out about half us recognize that there are things that can make you poor—from simple lack of opportunity to medical crises to local economic conditions to a not-very-long string of bad luck—that do not stem from a simple case of insufficient bootstrap-pulling.
“In hard economic times, people become more sympathetic to the poor,” says Martin Gilens, Ph.D., a political scientist at Princeton University.
We could probably boost that number if certain news organizations let folks know that actual poor people still existed, but it's a start.