"I don’t want the federal government giving me an incentive not to work, period"

Even among those struggling to find work, Mr. Tolleson is not alone in his views. In a recent survey of the unemployed by Rutgers University, more than one in four respondents was opposed to renewing the current extended unemployment benefits. Three out of five said recipients should be required to take training courses.

Mr. Tolleson, who lives in Houston and whose last good job was working for a group that aims to replace the income tax with a national sales tax, said he filed for unemployment after a church said it could not help him otherwise. But, he said, he knows the money is not free: “They either tax it from somebody who’s making money or they’re going to print it — either way, the economy goes down.”

Theresa Gorski, a pharmaceutical sales rep in Detroit before losing her job 17 months ago, once shared his skepticism of prolonging unemployment benefits.

“If you would have asked me five years ago, I would have said no, because I always considered myself a Republican,” said Ms. Gorski, 50. “But now being in this position, with a college education and lots of work experience behind me, I find myself swinging more liberal, and more Democrat. And that would never have happened before.”