Before the election much hubbub was made about the numbers of people being added as recipients to the SNAP (food stamp) program. Some wondered at the possibility of those being bought votes. In the form of a question, did the Obama administration recruit people to the assistance program to ensure a re-election victory? In the mean time, people wondered, were we being bled dry be a bunch of lazy, shiftless, good for nothings who are just taking advantage of the governmental teat?
According to the Wall Street Journal the average food stamp family in 2010 had $731 per month in gross income. They received just $287 per month from SNAP. The Journal also reported
Nearly 21% of households on food stamps also received Supplemental Security Income, assistance for the aged and blind. Some 21.4% received Social Security benefits. Just 8% of households also received Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, the cash welfare program.
But some 20% of households had no cash income of any kind last year, up from 15% in 2007, the year the recession began, and up from 7% in 1990.
That’s partly because most household heads who were receiving food stamps were also out of work. Just 21.8% of them had jobs in 2010, while 19.8% were jobless and looking for work.
More than half of household heads who received food stamps, 51.1%, weren’t in the labor force and weren’t searching for work. Labor-force dropouts have been a particular concern for economists, who worry their lost potential damages economic output. Those who drop out of the work force often turn to other government programs, such as Social Security disability, which is costly.
Just 6.7% of households who received food stamps were getting jobless benefits.
Nearly half of all food-stamp recipients, 47%, were children under the age of 18. Another 8% of recipients were age 60 or older.
Whites made up the largest share of food stamp households, 35.7%. Some 22% of households receiving food stamps were counted as African American and 10% were Hispanic.
U.S. born citizens made up the majority, 94%, of food stamp households.
While it is true SNAP users have increased dramatically under the Obama administration a substantial increase had already begun under the Bush 43 administration. The extent of the economic downturn between the fall of 2007 and 2011 would likely have seen a continued increase if there had been a third Bush term. (Only Clinton at -8.2% and Reagan at -2.4% have overseen declines in the last eight presidencies.)
So what about the votes? Below are four national county maps. The first is voting by county for the 2008 election. Then the amount of county-by-county increase in food stamps recipients between 2007-2009. Beneath that is the percentage of residents on food stamps in each county nationally in 2009. Finally, a county-by-county voting map of the 2012 election.
I am neither a cartographer, a politician nor the son of either. However, it looks like an awful lot of counties with high concentrations of food stamp recipients voted Red (ie, GOP). It is true that the highest numbers of recipients are in Blue (Dem) areas, but I think it is too strong a suggestion to say all food stamp recipients voted Democratic. It is also too strong to say Obama carried the day because of that vote. Since 18M people been added since Obama took office and he won by less than 3M votes, and since he garnered 9M more votes in 2008, it seems hard to argue that SNAP recipients contributed meaningfully to his victory.