Public spending is under attack: a critical analysis of the media’s contribution to over exaggerations of welfare spending and fraud loss

Ellis, Stephanie (2015) Public spending is under attack: a critical analysis of the media’s contribution to over exaggerations of welfare spending and fraud loss. MSc dissertation, University of Portsmouth.

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    In our current society there is no escape from the bombardment of media attention surrounding welfare claimants and fraudsters. Rarely a day goes by that a national newspaper doesn’t include a story thrashing the latest welfare scandal, or documentaries such as Benefits Street, Life on the Dole or Benefits Britain isn’t broadcast on television. The language and views of individuals portrayed within these documentaries and articles can often create a stereotypical perception of every individual claiming welfare benefits. The stereotypical view of welfare claimants as fraudsters create can attribute to the exaggerated views of Government fraud losses every year.
    This study will analyse the way in which the media portray stories surrounding benefit expenditure and benefit fraud/fraudsters in the UK. Secondly it will analyse and evaluate the public’s perception of levels of benefit fraud; in an attempt to identify if in fact the media plays a contributing factor for such perceptions. This will be achieved through two core pieces of research; a public questionnaire and detailed content analysis.
    The public questionnaire includes 80 respondents from the investigator led survey. The main aim of this research was to gain an understanding of the general public’s perception of fraud levels within the UK, which category they believe to be the highest contributor to expenditure, their opinion of welfare claimants and fraudsters and the information they have gained from the media surrounding these issues. The second piece of research conducted was a detailed content analysis. This included the analysis of 50 newspaper articles, gathered over a 4 month time period, from 8 newspapers; 4 tabloids and 4 broadsheets. The content analysis research focused on the media’s representation of welfare expenditure, welfare fraudsters and welfare claimants. In particular the study evaluates the use of language and narratives within editorials detailing welfare issues to evaluate if there was a common theme that emerged.
    The results of the questionnaire showed that the public had a vastly over exaggerated perception of levels of fraud loss within the UK, and many individuals felt that the media used stereotypes when referring to welfare claimants and fraudsters. The results of the content analysis showed that the media use a distinctively high amount of stereotypical language surrounding welfare fraudsters and claimants and over estimate or provide misleading figures or statistics surrounding welfare expenditure. A distinctive difference was highlighted between newspapers articles, particularly between tabloids and broadsheets.
    From the results of this research, previous research and literature detailed within this dissertation the conclusion reached is that the media can play a significant part in the over exaggerations in welfare spending. The way in which the media frames stories pertaining to welfare issues and fraud create misleading and stereotypical reporting styles. The constant presentation of this information within the media has the distinctive ability to indirectly perpetuating public’s perception.

    Item Type: Dissertation
    Departments/Research Groups: Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences > Institute of Criminal Justice Studies
    Depositing User: Jane Polwin
    Date Deposited: 18 Mar 2016 14:29
    Last Modified: 18 Mar 2016 14:29

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