In July 2018, the New York Times ran an op-ed titled “The GOP’s War on the Poor,” and in March of 2017, Salon asked, “Why are Republicans so cruel to the poor?” As someone actively involved in community service efforts in college, I faced these questions firsthand. Because conservatives generally oppose government welfare programs, there is an assumption that we hate poor people and are stingy Scrooges.
The numbers, however, beg to differ.
A 2014 study published by The Chronicle of Philanthropy found that “red states” reported higher percentages of giving than “blue states.” In fact, the top-rated 17 states in giving all went for Mitt Romney in 2012.
The five most generous states, (states that gave the largest share of their gross incomes), were Utah, Mississippi, Alabama, Tennessee, and Georgia, who give between 4.2 and 7 percent of their gross income to charity each year. All five of these states are solidly conservative.
The least generous states include New Hampshire, Maine, Vermont, New Jersey, and Rhode Island, who all give around 2 percent of their gross income. These five states are consistently liberal.
Liberals love to talk about helping the less fortunate, about putting foods in the mouths of the poor, and clothing those who need it, but they, according to these numbers, are less likely to go out and serve at a soup kitchen or donate their clothes. Instead, they choose liberal leaders and hope that the government will do the feeding and clothing for them. Instead of taking food off of their own shelves to feed the hungry down the street, they expect a huge government entity to do just that.
Conservatives, on the other hand, have little faith in big government and instead look for ways they can give back themselves, whether by giving their time serving at a soup kitchen, on a mission trip, or by donating to a charitable organization so that they have the ability to best help those in need.
Nicholas Kristof admitted the disparity between words and actions in a 2008 NYT op-ed, in which he concluded, “We liberals are personally stingy.” In that piece, Kristof cites a Google study that found that charitable contributions on the part of conservative households were nearly double those of liberal households.
In his book, “Who Really Cares?” Arthur Brooks confronted his own understanding of charity when it comes to political beliefs, and concluded similarly.
“When I started doing research on charity,” Brooks wrote in his book, “I expected to find that political liberals — who, I believed, genuinely cared more about others than conservatives did — would turn out to be the most privately charitable people. So when my early findings led me to the opposite conclusion, I assumed I had made some sort of technical error. I re-ran analyses. I got new data. Nothing worked. In the end, I had no option but to change my views.”
Despite assumptions about conservatives being heartless for their denial of big government policies as a way to fix the problems of others, think tanks such as the Heritage Foundation are working to highlight how big government programs often hurt the poor disproportionately. These “big government solutions” include soda taxes, fuel-efficiency mandates, occupational licensing, and even ride-sharing regulations.
Therefore, conservatives are not only more charitable when it comes to opening their wallets; their policies may actually be more beneficial. So the next time you hear someone call conservatives heartless Scrooges, or while you’re thinking about how you can give back this holiday season, don’t forget that while the conservative puts their money where the liberal mouth often is, the numbers show liberals don’t do the same.