Representations of Poverty in British Newspapers: A case of Othering the threat?

Apurv Chauhan, Juliet Foster

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    The meanings of social problems like poverty develop within the public sphere. This paper uses the theory of social representations to examine how poverty is represented in British newspapers. Poverty has been discussed and interpreted in numerous ways, and newspapers not only provide a platform for these elaborations but also contribute to shaping public understanding on the issue. The study sampled news coverage on poverty in four British newspapers during two randomly chosen one‐month periods in the years 2001 and 2011. The data set of news reports (n = 274) was thematically analysed to examine representations of poverty. The study found that in the domestic context, media represents poverty as a problem limited to vulnerable groups such as children and the elderly. With a lack of discussion on the wider socio‐economic causes and contributing factors, poverty within the UK appears as an ‘orphan phenomenon’ with an unknown genesis. In contrast, the representations of poverty outside the UK are vivid and elaborate, and the news reports hold the socio‐political inefficiency of countries responsible for poverty. The study also found that the media uses poverty to make sense of catastrophic events in society: the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in the United States and the London riots of 2011 were both anchored using poverty. This paper discusses the representational dynamics of these findings and argues that the media representations distance general society from poverty, representing it as a problem of the other.
    Original languageEnglish
    JournalJournal of Community and Applied Social Psychology
    Issue number5
    Publication statusPublished - 18 Dec 2013

    Bibliographical note

    This is the peer reviewed version of the following article: Chauhan A. and Foster J. (2014), Representations of Poverty in British Newspapers: A Case of ‘Othering’ the Threat?, J. Community Appl. Soc. Psychol., 24, pages 390–405., which has been published in final form at This article may be used for non-commercial purposes in accordance with Wiley Terms and Conditions for Use of Self-Archived Versions.


    • Poverty
    • Media Narratives
    • newspapers
    • social representation theory
    • othering


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