The study carried out by YouGov for the Trades Unions Congress (TUC) and the Fabian Society found 49% of people in private rented housing and 66% of those in social housing would have problems if their income fell.
It found that a drop of 10% in income would cause “real difficulty” for 31% of private renters and 44% of social renters.
The government wants to slash the £21bn housing benefit bill through a range of measures, including capping rents, altering how the amount that can be claimed is calculated, and cutting housing benefit by 10% from people who have been claiming jobseekers’ allowance for more than a year.
TUC general secretary Brendan Barber said: “Ministers want us to believe that housing benefit is going to what they would call work-shy scroungers, yet in reality only one claimant in eight is unemployed. The rest are mainly low-income working households, pensioners or the disabled.
“Then they tell us that people can absorb a cut in their Housing Benefit. This poll shows that most cannot.”
The survey also revealed that 3% of private renters and 31% of social renters reported that the stress of maintaining their rent payments has affected their performance at work.