After the passage of the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996 (your neoliberal government at work), some thought that one of the (intended) benefits was that racial politics and welfare would be decoupled. Or at the very least, the Democratic Party would no longer be saddled with the welfare burden. The public opinion data suggested otherwise, but the problem was that the public opinion data that we used was collected BEFORE the passage of the Act.
I just stumbled on an interesting article from Public Opinion Quarterly. The abstract for “The End of Welfare as We Know It?” (Joshua Dyck and Laura Hussey, vol 72, No. 4, pp. 589-618):
Since passage of the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996 (PRWORA), welfare has lost its place among America’s most controversial issues. While there are many critics of the reform, many more declare it a success, and these elites are both Republican and Democrat. Opinion polls indicate that a majority of the public is favorably inclined toward the passed reforms. In this paper, we provide systematic evidence that the information environment surrounding welfare policy has changed. Given this, we pose the following research question: do negative attitudes about blacks continue to color people’s willingness to spend money on welfare programs? We address this question by examining the predictors of opposition to welfare spending in the 1992, 1996, 2000, and 2004 American National Election Studies. The evidence suggests that despitethe changing information environment, welfare attitudes are as strongly racialized in 2004, as they were a decade earlier.
Dyck and Hussey knocked this out of the park. (And yes their last names are funny as hell considering the subject.)