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National Poll Finds Support for Welfare Drug Testing

Submitted by Phillip Smith on (Issue #694)
Drug War Issues

A Rasmussen poll released this week found majority support for automatic drug testing of new welfare applicants and lesser, but still high, levels of support for drug testing people already receiving welfare benefits.

The poll comes as a new law Florida law mandating the suspicionless drug testing of welfare applicants and recipients is about to be implemented. Missouri has also passed a law requiring the drug testing of welfare recipients if there is "reasonable suspicion" to suspect drug use.

Bills to drug test welfare recipients have become increasingly popular as states face tough economic times and seek ways to tighten their belts, even though it is not clear that the costs of drug testing tens or hundreds of thousands of people would be offset by the savings generated by throwing drug users off the dole.

Such bills are also constitutionally dubious. A 1999 Michigan law subjecting welfare recipients to suspicionless drug testing was thrown out by the 6th US Circuit Court of Appeals in 2003 when the court found that it amounted to an unreasonable search and seizure under the Fourth Amendment.

But that doesn't stop politicians, and this Rasmussen poll suggests why legislators find supporting drug testing such an enticing position.

The national telephone survey of likely voters found that 53% believe all welfare applicants should be drug tested before receiving benefits.  Another 13% only supported random drug testing, while 29% said welfare applicants should only be tested if there was a reasonable suspicion they were using drugs.

That is a whopping 95% who said they thought welfare applicants should be drug tested either routinely, randomly, or upon suspicion. That high number may be an artifact of the poll design; the poll questions only gave those three options when respondents were asked about whether welfare applicants should be drug tested. Rasmussen polling is also reputed to tilt in the conservative direction, which could also skew the findings. But with such a high number, the the general meaning of the results seems clear.

Respondents were more divided when it comes to testing people who are already receiving benefits. Some 35% said recipients should be tested only where there is reasonable suspicion, 31% supported random drug tests, and 29% said all recipients should be regularly tested.

If welfare recipients are found to be using illegal drugs, 70% of respondents said they should lose their benefits. Only 15% said they opposed taking away benefits, while another 15% were undecided. Of those who said benefits should be ended, 58% said it should happen for a first offense, while 40% said there should be one or more warnings before cutting benefits.  [Ed: Much depends on how a question is asked. A poll question commissioned by this organization in 2007 which mentioned "recovery" and "families" found nearly 67% of likely voters opposed to revoking benefits.]

It looks like advocates of welfare rights and civil liberties will have to fight a massive public education battle to turn public opinion around on this issue affecting the lives of some of society's most vulnerable and least able to speak up for their own rights.

Permission to Reprint: This content is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license. Content of a purely educational nature in Drug War Chronicle appear courtesy of DRCNet Foundation, unless otherwise noted.


kickback (not verified)

As soon as the government goes belly up and the dollar crashes, alot of these people who support this drug testing nonsense will find themselves on welfare. I bet they will quickly change their attitude.

Fri, 07/22/2011 - 7:44pm Permalink
Moonrider (not verified)

In reply to by kickback (not verified)

When "the government goes belly up and the dollar crashes" there won't be any welfare available to anyone who isn't part of government.  They'll protect their own and fuck the rest of the people.

Sat, 07/23/2011 - 2:01pm Permalink
dcratssuck (not verified)

In reply to by kickback (not verified)

that may be the most closed minded comment I have heard....   get off the drugs yourself... I guess you don't mind going to work to pay for everyone else who is too lazy to go to work...  or do you have a job??

Wed, 07/27/2011 - 12:48pm Permalink
Jenn (not verified)

In reply to by dcratssuck (not verified)

Wow... you want to talk about paying, our government's failed Drug War wages war on it's own people & has cost about $25,000,000,000, going up about $500 a second. We have about 5% of the world's population in our country, & about a quarter of the world's prisoners, many for non-violent offenses. How much good could have been done for our country if our government had spent that money towards helping people rather than criminalizing a personal choice. 

Fri, 08/05/2011 - 10:55pm Permalink
kickback (not verified)

The " drug war " must be referred to as what it is , a " Fool's Errand " .  A sham on the American Taxpayer's. The truth is not on the side of the " drug warriors " .  Period.

Sat, 07/23/2011 - 5:56am Permalink
disgusted (not verified)

Superficially, it may sound like a good idea but think about it. These people still need help and collectively we will still pay for their care. I have a family member on disability/welfare and they are subject to drug tests at the doctor's office every month. Oddly, they have a weight loss issue and because welfare does not pay for cost prohibitive marinol, the doctor tests for everything but marijuana (non MMJ state). Anyway, if these people on welfare get popped, the downward spiral begins that will either lead them to the hospital or jail. We will foot this bill, which will be higher, and they will ultimately go back to a like we will collectively pay for. Yeah, we  got us a real good system here.

Sat, 07/23/2011 - 11:43am Permalink
The Spleen (not verified)

This push to drug test welfare recipients is a scam of a level unseen since the days of Carlton "Paraquat Tester" Turner. It is amazing that voters in FL haven't connected this directly to the fact that Gov. Scott's family owns the largest testing firm in the state.

Drug testing is expensive, and there will be additional government offices added for administration of this program. How often will they test? For which substances (they are all separate tests, you know and each is very pricey)? What is the appeals process? How much will the entire thing cost vs. the projected "savings" from booting poor people into the streets?

We're a nation of sheep.

Sat, 07/23/2011 - 11:56am Permalink
Eridani (not verified)

I agree that people on welfare should not use taxPayers money to fund their addiction. However, there is a fine line here. Welfare recipients with drug problems should be provided help, not get cut off. Those who use drugs responsibly should not have thier welfare cutl. And all these people who want welfare drug tests didn't even mention alcohol or cigarette addictions.
Sat, 07/23/2011 - 6:25pm Permalink
joe oint (not verified)

  ok,  they come up positive for a drug,  and they are taken off public assistance,  then what?  they will be on the streets,  doing crimes not just for drugs but just to live!  then you put them in jail.  who pays for them being in jail?  WE DO!  and if they have kids who pays to take care of them?  WE DO!  ok so now we have a broken home,  parents in jail, which they will have a crimminal record and have a more difficult time getting a job when they get out so they wont be paying taxes. all the while our taxes are paying for all of this!  i dont think its worth it.  i dont think drug testing should be allowed when applying for a job.  we need to think about who has the real problem!  its ok to drink daily and come to work with a hangover but its not ok to reponsably use drugs to relax after work.  i would rather work with someone who just smoked a big fatty then someone who is hungover!  we must realize the people who realy has a drug problem are the prohabitionalists!

Sat, 07/23/2011 - 6:25pm Permalink
maryjanesuncle (not verified)

 I work and I smoke cannabis...if you take money from the tax payer and spend it on weed instead of food and bills you are a low life thief..and a poster child for the prohibitionists ...Get a job..spend YOUR money on any thing you want..but when you beg the government for survival money and blow it on a good time your just robbing from the hungry and sick

Sun, 07/24/2011 - 7:38am Permalink
Anonymous23452… (not verified)

This isn't about "sticking it to the poor", if we wanted to step on the poor we would just get rid of entitlements all together.

If someone is taking money to live off of from my taxes, and they don't have the money to take care of themselves. They shouldn't be spending money on beer/cigarettes/drugs.


Sun, 07/24/2011 - 1:33pm Permalink
Giordano (not verified)

There is a real hostility toward the poor in the United States, a hostility that serves and is usually encouraged by right wing politicians.  The right wants voters to believe they’re all picking up the tab for a bunch of freeloaders, as if the poor choose to be poor.

There are thousands of reasons to be poor in America.  Naturally, one might occasionally find a welfare freeloader, just as one is going to find occasional corruption and freeloading within government, such as that seen in drug enforcement agencies in particular.  But many cases of poverty revolve around poor health, like chronic migraine sufferers who can’t take regular jobs.  Many of those who suffer health problems are poor because society failed to accommodate their needs within the work force, assuming the person can work at all.  So the social net compensates such people as its humanitarian duty to its citizens because the government, or the corporatists, are just too lazy to come up with any better options. 

As for drugs, one sure way to create a pocket of poverty is to arrest, imprison or kill the breadwinner of a family on a matter relating to drug charges.  This act typically forces what’s left of his or her family to apply to the welfare system for assistance.

The use of medical marijuana to eliminate or subdue medical symptoms can allow someone to return to the work force, or pursue other normal and productive activities.   For instance, a college instructor I know survived cancer after being given a 20% chance to live.  He currently uses medical marijuana as part of a post-therapy regimen that includes a healthy diet.  Fortunately, he is protected from drug testing by his teachers union.  Were drug testing to be introduced on his job site, he would face the choice of giving up what he believes has kept his cancer in remission, or keeping his job.  If he loses his job, he loses his health insurance, and he might end up on welfare, which would likely kill him if drug testing is required and the agency cuts off his use of medical marijuana.  For the record, this type of dilemma is known as Sophie’s Choice .

A better solution for the public housing and welfare drug issue would be for the system to incorporate a drug treatment that supplies impoverished addicts with their hard drug of choice, along with a plan to provide a voluntary diversion to another, less debilitating drug, or to treat the addiction, assuming an effective treatment exists.  Soft drugs and herbal medications would simply not be priorities; the plan would be terror and hysteria free.  These methods have worked in experimental settings conducted in Europe, saving lives while simultaneously eliminating a lot of local petty crime. 

On a large scale, the approach would cut into a large percentage of the black market for hard drugs, while placing the whole matter under the health care umbrella where it’s likely to receive the best solution for all concerned.  That way, people can stop being afraid of the poor and making war on the less fortunate.


Sun, 07/24/2011 - 7:23pm Permalink
Rookie (not verified)

This is such a ridiculous issue that I can not believe ANY of the people can or would agree with it. Urine testing is a flawed system. It proves nothing as the False Positive rate associated with it can not rule out some doubt of its results. Urine testing by the Government or an Employer is a basic Illegal Search and Seizure that Violates any rights I have. We Must stop Urine testing now and move on to better forms of testing. 

To take this farther why dosent anyone ever complain about people on Welfare selling their benefits for cash and buying Tobacco and Alcohol with them.. This is a HUGE problem!

Tue, 07/26/2011 - 7:38am Permalink
roach_clip (not verified)

The solution is SIMPLE.  Passing a urin test is nothing but a numbers game.  If you have X number of parts per million/billion whatever in your urine then you fail.  If you piss LESS than X number, then you pass!  Simple, right?

Ok, so give them JUST ENOUGH urine to color a vial of Visine Eye drops yellow.

Open the container.  Dump in a WHOLE bottle of Original Visine (keep it WARM/Hot prior to the test) and add a little piss.  Voala...  You passed the test.

And I KNOW it works, as I have done it numerous times.

Tue, 07/26/2011 - 3:06pm Permalink
jobie (not verified)

yes here we go again, picking on the people that cant afford an attorney if they did piss a bad urine sample, its all about the money!!!!!!!! i believe the state, feds , government also needs to take a drug test once a month. who do they think they are... we might be supprized to see the corruption on up the ladder....

Tue, 07/26/2011 - 3:07pm Permalink
roach_clip (not verified)

The solution is SIMPLE.  Passing a urin test is nothing but a numbers game.  If you have X number of parts per million/billion whatever in your urine then you fail.  If you piss LESS than X number, then you pass!  Simple, right?

Ok, so give them JUST ENOUGH urine to color a vial of Visine Eye drops yellow.

Open the container.  Dump in a WHOLE bottle of Original Visine (keep it WARM/Hot prior to the test) and add a little piss.  Voala...  You passed the test.

And I KNOW it works, as I have done it numerous times.

Tue, 07/26/2011 - 3:07pm Permalink
Anonymous32 (not verified)

they all should be drug tested and the food stamps should not be able to buy Steak and junk food  only good healthy food. If they want to drink pop and eat steak will give them the incentive to get a job and support themselves. There are a lot of people that should not be on welfare and that needs to change.

Tue, 07/26/2011 - 7:39pm Permalink
Brinna (not verified)

Frankly, what we should be addressing is the general issue of random drug testing in the workplace. These tests are an exercise of corporate domination over human rights. Urine voodoo does not "make the workplace safer", all it does is give the employer the ability to oversee the personal lives of workers. 

People think welfare recipients should be tested for the simple reason that these poor sods get tested themselves at work. That should be obvious, and they won't change their minds unless they too are freed from this barbaric practice.

No one, with very few exceptions, in very few circumstances should have to undergo the dehumanizing humiliation of needing to pee on demand for their bosses.

Actually, it pretty much astounds me that folks put up with it. Where is the national movement to put an end to this BS across the board, once and for all?

Fri, 07/29/2011 - 1:40am Permalink
King Pothead (not verified)

I will never understand why ignorant people are so willing to piss on the most vulnerable and downtrodden in society.  Do you not understand that adding drug testing to welfare programs will add significantly more to the state expenses than if you just handed out the welfare check?  Do you fools not realize that you (as taxpayers) will be the ones picking up the tab for this senseless sh*t?   Has it not yet dawned on you that your tax dollars  will benefit the multi-billion dollar drug testing industry the pushes  this issue and will profit from the creation of this new market?  Have you thought about the fact that you will possibly push those kicked off the welfare rolls into illegal activity (making it even more expensive for all concerned)? 

Most supporters of this are just uneducated idiots being brainwashed by right-wing demagoguery.  It's a shame they are incapable of thinking for themselves or putting themselves into the shoes of another.  Otherwise, they wouldn't support this mean-spirited bullsh*t that looks to villainize the poor to benefit the wealthy.

Fri, 07/29/2011 - 3:20pm Permalink
C.G. (not verified)

I feel the government is on a path to rid America of poor, disabled AND the elderly. There are none in position of making these decisions that have ever known what it's like to be hungry, homeless or old and helpless.

They start drug testing welfare recipients and then what? They certainly won't stop there! They'll eventually also start testing Disability recipients, SS recipients, how about military pensions? A recipient of any payment made by the government will eventually have to jump through many hoops, and give up all their rights, to get their check.

Look at how they plan to balance their bloated budget! Not by decreasing the amount of morons working in wasteful government positions. Not by doing away with the myriad of taxpayer-funded programs that duplicate other programs that never do what they're supposed to do anyway- the thousands of worthless non-profit organizations that stick most of the funding in their own pockets.

No! They plan to do it on the backs of the ones already struggling to survive. The retirees who worked their whole lives, paid taxes and helped all of them enjoy the good life the past 60 years! They want to screw the ones that aren't able to defend themselves!

The entire federal government needs to be done away with! It's a joke- but the joke's on us!

Tue, 08/09/2011 - 3:08pm Permalink

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