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What you think of welfare program depends on how you view those receiving it

Published: Wednesday, Dec. 11 2013 7:50 p.m. MST

New research suggests that what you think of the welfare program depends on what you think of the person receiving it.

Damian Dovarganes, AP

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How much does the average person back the country's welfare program? That depends on them.

New research from Lene Aarøe and Michael Bang Petersen, slated for a future release, reports that people's attitude toward welfare programs and social safety nets depends on their perception of the welfare recipient, according to the Washington Post.

"If they believe that welfare recipients are lazy, they are unlikely to support welfare. If they believe that welfare recipients are making an effort to find work, they are likely to take a different attitude," the article reported.

The forthcoming research, titled "Crowding Out Culture: Scandinavians and Americans Agree on Social Welfare in the Face of Deservingness Cues" stems from a comparison of Scandinavians and Americans in terms of welfare perceptions.

Differing opinions of welfare service among countries is attributed to stereotypes and labels attached to seekers of welfare within that country.

According to the Washington Post, "Previous research suggests that Scandinavians tend to be quite positive about welfare, while Americans are markedly skeptical."

Researchers findings were summarized into three key points:

1. Citizens from the U.S. and Denmark: Two countries with vastly different welfare states have different "default" stereotypes about welfare recipients.

2. Though no clear information about the nature of the recipient is available, stereotypes influence support to welfare recipients in each country.

3. When direct information about a welfare recipient is available, stereotypes subside.

But the idea of skepticism toward welfare programs in the U.S. isn't groundbreaking. In President Barack Obama's Dec. 4 address on the economy, among other things, he tackled proposals to bolster the social safety net programs head on.

The Daily Beast reported on some of these stereotypes that have been found alive and well in our culture.

"Whites who show high levels of 'ethnocentrism,' (judging another culture based on your own) for instance, are more likely to oppose means-tested welfare — like Temporary Aid for Needy Families," the article stated. "Likewise, whites who show high levels of 'racial resentment' — the belief that blacks and other minorities unfairly benefit at the expense of white Americans — are reliable opponents of government programs for the poor."

Email: ebuchanan@deseretnews.com

Twitter: emmiliewhitlock

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