WASHINGTON — While most Americans like the idea of drug testing for welfare recipients, they LOVE the idea of drug testing for members of Congress.
According to a new HuffPost/YouGov poll, 64 percent of Americans favor requiring welfare recipients to submit to random drug testing — a measure pushed by Republican lawmakers in recent years — while 18 percent oppose it. But an even stronger majority said they’re in favor of random drug testing for members of Congress, by a 78 percent to 7 percent margin. Sixty-two percent said they “strongly” favor drug testing for congressional lawmakers, compared to only 51 percent who said the same of welfare recipients.
The House of Representatives passed legislation this year that would allow states to require food stamp recipients to pee in cups to prove they’re not on drugs. In 2012, Republicans pushed for drug testing of people seeking unemployment insurance benefits when they lose their jobs. At the state level, GOP lawmakers across the country have sought drug testing for an array of safety net programs. (Politicians sometimes refer to means-tested government benefits in general as “welfare,” although the term is more commonly a nickname for the relatively small Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program.)
Democrats have frequently suggested that if drug tests are good for people getting a hand from the government, then they’re good for people running the government, too. Republicans usually don’t go along with that idea — the Kansas state legislature is one recent exception — but voters heartily approve.
While drug testing for both welfare recipients and lawmakers received support across party lines in the new poll, the congressional proposal was the one more likely to bring Americans together. Eighty-six percent of Republicans, 77 percent of Democrats and 75 percent of independents said they want drug testing for members of Congress.
Republicans felt especially strongly about drug testing of welfare recipients, with 87 percent favoring it and only 9 percent opposed. Among Democrats, 50 percent favored and 28 percent opposed drug testing of welfare recipients, while independents were in favor by a 64 percent to 16 percent margin.
If a member of Congress is caught using illegal drugs, as Rep. Trey Radel (R-Fla.) was in late October, Americans expressed little inclination to show mercy. Sixty-six percent said that a member of Congress convicted of possessing a small amount of cocaine should be forced to resign, while only 14 percent favored allowing the convicted member to serve out the remainder of his or her term.
Americans consider drug testing to be a no-brainer under a variety of circumstances, according to the survey. Seventy-two percent said they support random drug testing for members of the military, and 87 percent supported it for airline pilots. Seventy-one percent said they support random drug testing for professional athletes.
The HuffPost/YouGov poll was conducted Nov. 25-27 among 1,000 U.S. adults using a sample selected from YouGov’s opt-in online panel to match the demographics and other characteristics of the adult U.S. population. Factors considered include age, race, gender, education, employment, income, marital status, number of children, voter registration, time and location of Internet access, interest in politics, religion and church attendance.
The Huffington Post has teamed up with YouGov to conduct daily opinion polls. You can learn more about this project and take part in YouGov’s nationally representative opinion polling.
By Emily Swanson and Arthur Delaney