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

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Tackling one of the most volatile issues in contemporary politics, Martin Gilens's work punctures myths and misconceptions about welfare policy, public opinion, and the role of the media in both. Why Americans Hate Welfare shows that the public's views on welfare 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.

"With one out of five children currently living in poverty and more than 100,000 families with children now homeless, Gilens's book is must reading if you want to understand how the mainstream media have helped justify, and even produce, this state of affairs." —Susan Douglas, The Progressive
"Gilens's well-written and logically developed argument deserves to be taken seriously." —Choice

"A provocative analysis of American attitudes towards 'welfare.'. . . [Gilens] shows how racial stereotypes, not white self-interest or anti-statism, lie at the root of opposition to welfare programs." -Library Journal

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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 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 (
John Harwood
...[T]he most important contribution of Martin Gilens' Why Americans Hate Welfare is to identify the responsibility of...the journalistic 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

1. The American Welfare State: Public Opinion and Public Policy
2. Individualism, Self-Interest, and Opposition to Welfare
3. Racial Attitudes, the Undeserving Poor, and Opposition to Welfare
4. Assessing Alternative Explanations: Statistical Models of Welfare Attitudes
5. The News Media and the Racialization of Poverty
6. Media Distortions: Causes and Consequences
7. Racial Stereotypes and Public Responses to Poverty
8. Beyond the Attitude Survey: Public Opinion and Antipoverty Policy
9. The Politics of the American Welfare State
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