Skip to main content

Framing responsibility for political issues: The case of poverty

Abstract

How people think about poverty is shown to be dependent on how the issue is framed. When news media presentations frame poverty as a general outcome, responsibility for poverty is assigned to society-at-large; when news presentations frame poverty as a particular instance of a poor person, responsibility is assigned to the individual. Similar framing effects are documented in the 1986 General Social Survey where the amount of public assistance deemed appropriate for a poor family varies with the description of the family. In concluding, the implications of framing for the study of public opinion are considered.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

References

  • Achen, Christopher H. (1975). Mass political attitudes and the survey response.American Political Science Review 69: 1218–1231.

    Google Scholar 

  • Altheide, David L. (1987). Format and symbol in television coverage of terrorism in the United States and Great Britain.International Studies Quarterly 31: 161–176.

    Google Scholar 

  • Apostle, Richard A., Glock, Charles Y., Piazza, Thomas, and Suelzle, Marijean (1983).The Anatomy of Racial Attitudes. Berkeley: University of California Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Brickman, Philip, Karuza Jr., James, Coates, Dan, Cohn, Ellen, and Kidder, Louise (1982). Models of helping and coping.American Psychologist 37: 368–384.

    Google Scholar 

  • Cohen, Stanley (1981).The Manufacture of News. Beverly Hills: Sage Publications.

    Google Scholar 

  • Committee on Ways and Means, U.S. House of Representatives (1985).Children in Poverty. Washington, DC: Government Printing Office.

    Google Scholar 

  • Feagan, Joseph (1975).Subordinating the Poor. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall.

    Google Scholar 

  • Feldman, Stanley (1983). Economic individualism and American public opinion.American Politics Quarterly 11: 3–29.

    Google Scholar 

  • Fincham, Frank, and Jaspars, Jos (1980). Attribution of responsibility: From man the scientist to man as lawyer. In Leonard Berkowitz (ed.),Advances in Experimental Social Psychology, Vol. 16. New York: Academic Press, pp. 81–138.

    Google Scholar 

  • Fiske, Susan, and Taylor, Shelley (1984).Social Cognition. New York: Random House.

    Google Scholar 

  • Gamson, William, and Modigliani, Andre (1986). Media discourse and public opinion on nuclear power. Mimeo, Boston College Social Economy Program.

    Google Scholar 

  • Gans, Herbert (1979).Deciding What's News. New York: Vintage Books.

    Google Scholar 

  • Gitlin, Todd (1980).The Whole World is Watching. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Goodban, Nancy (1981). Attributions about poverty. (unpublished Ph.D. dissertation, Harvard University).

  • Iyengar, Shanto (1987). Television news and citizens' explanations of national issues.American Political Science Review 81: 815–832.

    Google Scholar 

  • Iyengar, Shanto (1989a). Shortcuts to political knowledge: Selective attention and the accessibility bias. In J. Ferejohn and J. Kuklinski (eds.),Information and the Democratic Process. Urbana: University of Illinois Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Iyengar, Shanto (1989b). How citizens think about political issues: A matter of responsibility.American Journal of Political Science 33: 878–900.

    Google Scholar 

  • Iyengar, Shanto, and Kinder, Donald R. (1986). More than meets the eye: Television news, priming, and citizens' evaluations of the president. In George Comstock (ed.),Public Communication and Behavior, Vol. 1. New York: Academic Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Iyengar, Shanto, and Kinder, Donald R. (1987).News That Matters. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Iyengar, Shanto, and Lenart, Silvo (1989). Beyond minimal consequences: A survey of media political effects. In Samuel Long (ed.),Political Behavior Annual, Vol. 2. Denver: Westview Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Kahneman, Daniel, and Tversky, Amos (1982). The psychology of preferences.Science 246: 136–142.

    Google Scholar 

  • Kahneman, Daniel, and Tversky, Amos (1984). Choices, values, and frames.American Psychologist 39: 341–350.

    Google Scholar 

  • Kenrick, Douglas T., and Funder, David C. (1988). Profiting from controversy: Lessons from the person-situation debate.American Psychologist 43: 23–34.

    Google Scholar 

  • Kinder, Donald R., and Sears, David O. (1985). Public opinion and political behavior. In Gardner Lindzey and Elliot Aronson (eds.),Handbook of Social Psychology, Vol. 2, New York: Random House.

    Google Scholar 

  • Kluegel, James, and Smith, Elliot R. (1986).Beliefs About Inequality. New York: Aldine.

    Google Scholar 

  • Lane, Robert E. (1962).Political Ideology: Why the Common Man Believes What He Does. New York: Free Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Lemkau, James, Bryant, F. B., and Brickman, Phillip (1982). Client commitment in the helping relationship. In T. A. Wills (ed.),Basic Processes in Helping Relationships. New York: Aldine.

    Google Scholar 

  • Lewis, Irving, and Scheider, William (1985). Hard times: The Public on Poverty.Public Opinion 9: 2–7.

    Google Scholar 

  • McCloskey, Herbert, and Zaller, John (1984).The American Ethos: Public Attitudes Toward Capitalism and Democracy. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • McNeil, Barbara, Parker, Steven, Sox Jr., Harold and Tversky, Amos (1982). On the elicitation of preferences for alternative therapies.New England Journal of Medicine 306: 1259–1262.

    Google Scholar 

  • Mischel, Walter (1968).Personality and Assessment. New York: Wiley.

    Google Scholar 

  • National Opinion Research Center (1987).Supplemental vignette file to the 1986 GSS. Chicago: NORC Mimeo.

    Google Scholar 

  • Nisbett, Richard E. (1980). The trait construct in lay and professional psychology. In Leon Festinger (ed.),Retrospections on Social Psychology. New York: Oxford University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Orne, Martin T. (1962). On the social psychology of the psychological experiment.American Psychologist 17: 776–783.

    Google Scholar 

  • Russell, Daniel, McAuley, Edward, and Jerico, Valerie (1987). Measuring causal attributions for success and failure: A comparison of methodologies for assessing causal dimensions.Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 52: 1248–1257.

    Google Scholar 

  • Schuman, Howard, and Presser, Stanley (1981).Questions and Answers in Attitude Surveys: Experiments on Question Form, Wording and Context. New York: Academic Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Smith, Tom (1987). That which we call welfare by any other name would smell sweeter: An analysis of the impact of question wording on response patterns.Public Opinion Quarterly 51: 75–83.

    Google Scholar 

  • Sniderman, Paul M., and Hagen, Michael G. (1985).Race and Inequality: A Study in American Values. Chatham, NJ: Chatham House Publishers.

    Google Scholar 

  • Sullivan, John L., Piereson, James, and Marcus, George L. (1982).Political Tolerance and American Democracy. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Thaler, Richard (1980). Toward a positive theory of consumer choice.Journal of Economic Behavior and Organization 1: 39–60.

    Google Scholar 

  • Tuchman, Gaye (1978).Making News: A Study in the Construction of Reality. New York: Free Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Zaller, John, and Feldman, Stanley (1988). Answering questions vs. revealing preferences. Paper delivered at the Fifth Annual meeting of the Political Methodology Society, UCLA.

Download references

Author information

Authors and Affiliations

Authors

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Iyengar, S. Framing responsibility for political issues: The case of poverty. Polit Behav 12, 19–40 (1990). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00992330

Download citation

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00992330

Keywords

  • General Outcome
  • Public Opinion
  • Political Issue
  • Poor Family
  • News Medium