Negative portrayal of people in poverty by British newspapers

People in poverty and those receiving benefits are depicted negatively in British newspapers compared with newspapers in Denmark and Sweden, according to new research.

Researchers at Aalborg University in Denmark examined stories in a sample of 1,750 newspapers from each country over the period 2004–2009.

Key points

  • There were many more stories on abuse of benefits in the UK than in Sweden and Denmark. In the UK these stories made up 19 per cent of the total, whereas such stories were almost absent in Sweden and Denmark.
  • This finding supports the classic argument that welfare systems dominated by selective benefits and services tend to produce public discussion about abuse.
  • Negative stories of all kinds about people in poverty made up 43 per cent of the British stories, compared with 27 per cent and 26 per cent respectively of the Swedish and Danish stories.
  • Harsh British media content existed despite the fact that people in poverty, and benefit recipients, are primarily perceived to be white.

Source: Christian Albrekt Larsen and Thomas Engel Dejgaard, The Institutional Logic of Images of the Poor and Welfare Recipients: A Comparative Study of British, Swedish and Danish Newspapers, Working Paper 2012-78, Centre for Comparative Welfare Studies

Link: Paper