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TOPIC: politicians created, rather than reacted to, negative public opinion on benefits

politicians created, rather than reacted to, negative public opinion on benefits 11 Nov 2017 13:27 #4881

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How politicians created, rather than reacted to, negative public opinion on benefits

Using House of Commons speeches on welfare from the late 1980s to 2015, Tom O’Grady finds that declining support for the benefits system was a top-down phenomenon. Shifts in political rhetoric – especially from Labour – did not occur after public opinion changed, but took place slightly before the public was changing its mind about benefits.

As Theresa May’s government continues the rollout of Universal Credit, changes in the UK’s welfare system are in the spotlight. The latest reforms represent the culmination of several decades of ‘welfare to work’ initiatives. These have taken Britain from a relatively generous welfare system to perhaps the least generous set of programs in the developed world. Benefits have been cut at the same time as the screws have been tightened on users of the system, subjecting them to ever more stringent conditions in return for their benefits.

Nonetheless, the reforms have proven popular with the public and were seen as a clear vote-winner by the Conservative Party. In ongoing work, I am trying to understand why. I argue that this shift in public opinion occurred mainly in response to changes in the way that politicians have framed and discussed both the welfare system and its users over the past thirty years. As the public heard increasingly harsh rhetoric, their opinions altered.

Read More Here;
blogs.lse.ac.uk/politicsandpolicy/public-opinion-towards-welfare/
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