A Conceptual Paper on Factors That Affect Public Perceptions of Welfare

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2008

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The University of Maryland McNair Scholars Undergraduate Research Journal, 1, no. 1 (Winter 2008): 236-251.

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Abstract

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.

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