Framing Poverty

One word  doesn’t seem to work for politicians: poverty.  (It also appears to be a problem on the global level, as well, noted in the Finding Frames report that critiques the “aid solves poverty” narrative.

Johnson used the word “poverty” nine times in his 1964 address. Most other presidents use the word a maximum of two times during their states of the union, and many don’t use it at all, a fact which bothers Abramsky.

“There’s almost an invisibilizing of poverty in this country,” Abramsky said. “You saw it in 2012, in the Presidential election. It’s during a period when tens of millions of Americans are struggling massively. They’ve lost their middle-class footholds and they are falling into what can only realistically be described as lives of poverty. But the language in 2012 was all about the struggling middle class. It wasn’t even about the working poor.”

via American presidents and the rhetoric of poverty |

But how use it matters, as well. As UCLA political scientist Shanto Iyengar pointed out, when the media “frame poverty as a general outcome” then it becomes a social issue but “poverty as a particular instance of a poor person” becomes someone else’s problem.

The Frameworks Institute has a short online course, “A Beginner’s Guide to Strategic Frame Analysis” that is worth exploring if you are interested in developing your own framing skills.


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