Testing the Public's Responsiveness to News about Changes in Welfare Policy

Grants and Contracts Details


This proposal requests $9,863 from the University of Kentucky Center for Poverty Research to conduct a series of news experiments designed to investigate two critical questions. First, why have Americans' attitudes toward welfare and its recipients remained largely unaltered in the face of dramatic changes in the reality of welfare policy and news coverage of the changes? More specifically, why has public support for welfare policy remained so low after some of the most objectionable features of the program were changed in 1996 and thereafter? And why is opposition to current welfare policy among whites still strongly tied to their negative views of African Americans and the poor? Second, what types of news stories, viewed by what types of individuals, are more (or less) likely to influence public attitudes toward welfare policy? These are important questions because welfare policy in the U.S.is strongly influenced by public opinion, which, in turn, is shaped as much by news coverage of poverty as the policy itself. The proposal requests funds for software, Research Assistant support and summer salary to design and administer broadcast news experiments that manipulate the content of news stories about welfare policy viewed by adult participants. In particular, the racial imagery of the news stories (e.g., whether Whites, Blacks or immigrants are depicted in the story), basic facts about current welfare policy (e.g., lifetime benefits, work requirements), and the tone of the stories (e.g., whether welfare reform is described as a success or not) will be manipulated to determine whether and how different news content influences public attitudes toward welfare. Although prior research has successfully employed survey experiments to examine welfare attitudes (e.g., Peffley, Hurwitz and Sniderman 1997; Avery and Peffley 2003), the proposed study would be one of the first to investigate the influence of different types of broadcast news stories in the postreform news environment. The results of this research will be written up in one or more papers to be posted on the Poverty Center's website and submitted for publication in major journals in political science, as well as serving as the basis for an external grant proposal for a larger research project.
Effective start/end date3/25/087/31/08


  • National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases


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