In a study of newspaper articles over the course of several years, it was found that portrayals of welfare recipients in the mass media have the potential to influence the way in which audiences think about them.{jcomments on}

In a book published following the study, it is reported that stories and pictures presented in the mass media help shape our opinions towards the poor and welfare recipients.
Media content influences our perception of who the poor and welfare recipients really are, how they behave, and what should be done to either help or punish them.

The author used a large sample of newspaper articles from the UK, Denmark and Sweden to analyse the positive and negative portrayals of the poor and welfare recipients in the press.

In the book, The Rise and Fall of Social Cohesion, he argues that the US and the UK are caught in a vicious circle: the combination of higher levels of poverty and a targeted welfare system produces a large amount of negative stories about the poor and welfare recipients.

In contrast, Sweden and Denmark seem to be caught in a virtuous circle. There, the combination of lower poverty levels and a universal welfare system reduces the amount of newsworthy negative stories and creates room for positive narratives about the ‘deserving poor’.

What keeps the British press somewhat positive is the publication of stories related to old-age poverty and anti-poverty policies aimed at easing living conditions for those at the bottom of society.

Yet, we know that in the media it is the negative stories that have the potential to create what sociologists call a ‘moral panic’.

Read more about this story on the London School of Economics website


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