Significance of the Study
In recent decades, public opinion has shifted and has become less supportive of the plight of the poor. The view that poverty is due to individual flaws has become more prevalent. While some recognize societal causes for poverty, many others attribute poverty to lack of motivation, hard work, moral flaws, and other characteristics internal to the individual. Additionally, the literature review will show that the general public’s perception of the poor differs from the demographic profile of those in poverty. Understanding current attitudes and perceptions and how they may influence support for programs and policies that affect the poor is an important first step in ...view middle of the document...
While the poverty rate in Wisconsin falls below the national average, it is one of only several states that have seen a rise in the proportion of individuals falling below the poverty level from 2002 to 2004 (DeNavas-Walt, Proctor, & Lee, 2005).
Additionally, after welfare was reformed in 1996, Wisconsin has one of the strongest work-centered policies in the country (Cancian, Meyer, & Wu, 2005). While the public may support policy reforms that require the poor to work, the effectiveness of these programs in lifting people out of poverty is in question. Epstein (2004) suggests that reducing poverty is not as important to the public as is independence from welfare. However, if the public begins to understand the true face of poverty as well as the complex causes of this social condition, more effective solutions can be applied.
This study is meant to be a preliminary investigation. While it is widely believed that attitudes determine behavior, the author, through her professional experience in survey research, has noted that stated attitudes and opinions do not necessarily predict behavior. It is important to understand motivations and other underlying factors. Additionally, there may be a bias in respondents’ giving of socially acceptable responses. Bolstrum (2002c) demonstrates that while there is high stated support for public programs and policies and some positive attitudes related to poverty and the working-poor, opinion can easily be swayed. Epstein (2004) also argues that public opinion polls may not be indicative of actual preferences and support. However, as a first step, this study will utilize survey research to examine attitudes, attributions, and stated support for public policies and programs, while future research should attempt to further uncover attitudes and beliefs and how these can be shaped.
Attitude – “a psychological tendency that is expressed by evaluating a particular entity with some degree of favor or disfavor” (Eagly & Chaiken, 1998, p. 1 as cited in Cozzarelli, Wilkinson, & Tagler, 2001). Attitudes related to poverty will be measured in terms of favor or disfavor for various scale items.
Poverty threshold – A measurement of the U.S. Census based on pre-tax money income, which varies according to family size and number of children. Poverty status will be determined based on the official federal poverty measurement.
Poor – those living below the poverty threshold as defined by the U.S. Census. (Ratio of income to poverty level is 1.0.) An individual or family is considered poor if its before-tax income falls below this threshold.
Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) – an area with a significant population center, along with surrounding communities. MSAs have at least one urban area with a population of 50,000 or more. Milwaukee area residents will be defined as those residing in the Milwaukee MSA, other urban residents are those living in Non-Milwaukee MSAs, and rural...