This is a conceptual paper to study the effects of external factors on public perceptions of social welfare. The study reviews literature on the history of social welfare during the presidencies of Franklin Roosevelt, Lyndon B. Johnson, and William Clinton.
The paper goes on to analyze three factors that play role on perceptions. These factors are values, environmental factors (economics and politics), and the media. Studies and surveys from Gilens, Gilliam, Los Angeles Times, and the National Election study were analyzed and discussed throughout the paper in the context of factors that influence perceptions.The factors outlined in the paper are analyzed using the theoretical framework of symbolic-interactionism. Symbolic-interactionism states that people act toward things based on the meaning those things have to them; and these meanings are derived from social interaction and modified through interpretation (Blumer, 1969).The model is appropriate for this inquiry because it allows the reader to understand how public perceptions are influenced.
Minimal biased methods were used for acquiring literature for the paper. A number of databases in fields such as sociology, social sciences, psychology, and economics were used to acquire literature on the topic. Methods for conducting future research on the effects of experience on perceptions and attitudes towards welfare are provided.The findings of the paper include the types of factors that play a role on perceptions (values, environmental factors, and media), what factor appears to be most influential (media) and whether public perceptions of welfare has changed over time. Conclusions from the literature are drawn that states that living in society plays a key role in how perceptions are made, but the individual’s interpretation of the information should be taken into consideration. The paper ends with recommendations on future research on how experience with welfare affects perceptions and attitudes towards welfare; and future research to better public perceptions of welfare.IntroductionProblem StatementThe first problem to be addressed in this research is that some people tend to take stances on issues to which they have no connection.
There are instances with public assistance, commonly known as welfare, where middle-class citizens take a position on government funding without having insight into public assistance programs. In addition to the first problem, being a recipient of means-tested welfare programs is stigmatizing. Means-tested programs are “programs that provide cash or services to people who meet a test of need based on income and assets” (McCracken, 2005, Means Tested Programs). Examples of these programs are Medicaid, Food Stamps, Supplemental Security Income, family support programs, and veterans’ pensions.
A possible reason these programs are stigmatizing is due to the media’s portrayal of traditional welfare recipients as “welfare queens” or persons that abuse the welfare system (Kohler-Hausmann, 2007). Yet a majority of the public is uniformed as to the other types of welfare (e.g. corporate welfare, fiscal welfare and occupational welfare) that caters to middle and upper-class citizens (Abramovitz, 2001).Purpose of Inquiry and Inquiry QuestionsThis conceptual paper is intended to identify and understand the factors that affect the public’s perception of public assistance through an analysis of welfare history starting with the Great Depression and ending with Clinton’s welfare reform in the 90s. Therefore, the inquiry questions for this paper are:1.
What factors affect the public’s perception of public assistance?2. How have public perceptions of public assistance changed over time?The answer to the inquiry questions will be based on an extended review and analysis of literature.Significance of the InquiryThis conceptual paper is significant because it will explore a number of factors that affect the public’s attitude towards traditional welfare. This paper will examine those factors and make recommendations for future researchSummary of Theoretical FrameworkThis conceptual paper integrates public programs and public perceptions which make it necessary to give a theoretical framework on public perceptions. The theoretical model that best explains how perceptions are formed is symbolic-interactionism. Symbolic-interactionism states that people act toward things based on the meaning those things have to them; and these meanings are derived from social interaction and modified through interpretation (Blumer, 1969).The model