Why Americans Hate Welfare: Race, Media, and the Politics of Antipoverty Policy / Edition 1

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Drawing on surveys of public attitudes and analyses of more than forty years of television and newsmagazine stories on poverty, Gilens demonstrates how public opposition to welfare is fed by a potent combination of racial stereotypes and misinformation about the true nature of America's poor. But white Americans don't oppose welfare simply because they think it benefits blacks; rather, they think it benefits "undeserving" blacks who would rather live off the government than work, a perception powerfully fueled by the media's negative coverage of the black poor. The public's views on welfare, Gilens shows, are a complex mixture of cynicism and compassion; misinformed and racially charged, they nevertheless reflect both a distrust of welfare recipients and a desire to do more to help the "deserving" poor.
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Editorial Reviews

John Harwood
...[T]he most important contribution of Martin Gilens' Why Americans Hate Welfare is to identify the responsibility of...the journalistic community...in turning the welfare issue into a racial Rorschach test.
The Washington Monthly
Library Journal
Gilens (political science, Yale Univ.) has written a provocative analysis of American attitudes toward welfare. Actually, he might have better titled his study Why Americans Hate Certain Kinds of Welfare, because he convincingly shows that most Americans actually support state assistance to the deserving poor, i.e., those who are not lazy and who actively seek employment. On the other hand, Americans overwhelmingly oppose welfare to those perceived as shiftless. This category has come to be associated with African Americans, partly through the medias long-term tendency to connect welfare with blacks. To prove this point, the book analyzes more than four decades of news reports on poverty. In the end, the author shows how racial stereotypes, not white self-interest or anti-statism, lie at the root of opposition to welfare programs. A well-written and thoughtful study on a timely subject.Anthony O. Edmonds, Ball State Univ., Muncie, IN
African Americans make up 29% of the American poor, yet two-thirds of poor Americans shown in news stories on television and in magazines are black. Gilens (political science, Yale U.) untangles the complicated attitudes Americans have about poverty, welfare, and race, and proves that news organizations routinely "racialize" stories on poverty and have been doing so for decades. He links this racialization of poverty to current public opinion about the role of welfare in American society. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknew.com)
John Harwood
...[T]he most important contribution of Martin Gilens' Why Americans Hate Welfare is to identify the responsibility of...the journalistic community...in turning the welfare issue into a racial Rorschach test.
The Washington Monthly
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Product Details

Meet the Author

Martin Gilens is an associate professor of political science and a fellow at the Institution for Social and Policy Studies at Yale University.

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Table of Contents

Introduction 1
1 The American Welfare State: Public Opinion and Public Policy 11
2 Individualism, Self-Interest, and Opposition to Welfare 31
3 Racial Attitudes, the Undeserving Poor, and Opposition to Welfare 60
4 Assessing Alternative Explanations: Statistical Models of Welfare Attitudes 80
5 The News Media and the Racialization of Poverty 102
6 Media Distortions: Causes and Consequences 133
7 Racial Stereotypes and Public Responses to Poverty 154
8 Beyond the Attitude Survey: Public Opinion and Antipoverty Policy 174
9 The Politics of the American Welfare State 204
Appendix 217
Notes 235
Bibliography 265
Index 281
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