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. An academic paper about the survey was published in the Journal of Social Policy (Baumberg 2016). You can view the wider results in the report itself, a quick note on a Guardian figure linked to the report, 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. All of these are available via the publications tab, which includes:
- Attitudes to disability benefit claimants: very little has previously been written on this, but an article is just coming out in Journal of European Social Policy on this in 2021 - see my publications list.
- Trends over time: I was asked to write the chapters on benefits attitudes in the 2017 and 2014 British Social Attitudes reports, Tax avoidance and benefit manipulation: Views on its morality and prevalence and Benefits and the cost of living: Pressures on the cost of living and attitudes to benefit claiming.
- Whether we can say that people hold 'myths' about the benefits system: there are three parts to this. Firstly, a paper looking at how far the public really do hold myths about the benefits system, published in Social Policy & Administration. Secondly, a book chapter looking at how far 'benefit myths' are associated with more negative aspects of the benefits system. And third, I think about what this all means for policy in a paper in the Journal of Poverty & Social Justice.
- What policymakers can do in a climate of negative public opinion: aside from the final paper in the benefit myths project, I have an older paper in the Journal of Poverty & Social Justice here.
- 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.