I have a set of interlocking interests around how people think about the benefits system, both because it's theoretically interesting, and because it matters personally (for claimants) and politically (given the role of public opinion in public policy, at least for this area in the UK).
The stigma of claiming benefits
Is there a stigma to claiming benefits? If so, why, and does it matter? In a nutshell, these are the questions that I looked at in 2012 a collaborative project with Kate Bell and Declan Gaffney, funded by the charity Elizabeth Finn Care, who run the advice line/website Turn2us. The project isn't that big, but despite this we've squeezed in a new survey, an unusually deep media analysis, analysis of existing data, and a few focus groups. You can find all of this in the report itself, a quick note on a figure used in a Guardian article, and the appendices to the report.
Aside from our one-page summary in the report itself, you can also read short blogs on several different bits of the report - we've written on perceived fraud in the benefits system (on Inequalities), the role of the media (on the New Statesman blog, and a longer version here), and how benefits stigma is misunderstood (on LSE Politics & Policy). Other people have written about the report in the Guardian (including on their Datablog), and the TUC's Touchstone blog (also reposted on Liberal Conspiracy).
One part of this that some people seemed to have found useful is our 'mythbusting' briefing (mainly a fantastic job by Declan), building on our earlier version for Red Pepper (version with footnotes). Note that I'm currently reflecting on the idea of 'myths', so my views are developing in this area - watch this space...
Public attitudes to benefits and benefits claimants
More generally, there are several different areas of attitudes to benefits that I've written about in one form or another. This includes:
- Trends over time - I was asked to write a chapter on benefits in the 2014 British Social Attitudes report (covering 2013 data), and one part of my argument was that the decline in support for the benefits system is real but simultaneously over-stated; there's concerns over some aspects of the benefits system, but still quite a lot of support for it.
- Financial pressures and benefit attitudes - the aforementioned British Social Attitudes chapter also looks at trends in people's perception of financial struggles, and how this relates to people's attitudes to benefits claimants.
- Whether we can say that people hold 'myths' about the benefits system - I'm working on this with Bobby Duffy and Charlotte Saunders at Ipsos MORI and Trude Sundberg at Kent, which we'll hopefully publish later in 2015.
- What policymakers can do in a climate of negative public opinion - see the paper in the Journal of Poverty and Social Justice (2012), under Publications.
- A variety of other blog posts - see my posts at the Inequalities blog under the keywords public opinion, political attitudes, and the politics of inequality.