A Crisis of Legitimacy? The Financial Crisis, the public, and the media

TitleA Crisis of Legitimacy? The Financial Crisis, the public, and the media
Publication TypeConference Paper
Author(s)Schifferes, S.
Affiliation (1st Author)City University London Department of Journalism
Section or WGPolitical Economy Section
DateWed 26 June
Slot CodePEW2a
Slot Code (Keyword)PEW2a
Time of Session11:00-12:30
Session TitleFinancial and Media Crisis
Submission ID6586

The global financial crisis – the deepest since the Great Depression – has profoundly changed the public mood as well as the economic situation. For the first time, the legitimacy of those who run the financial and economic system has been called into question. A key puzzle of this crisis is why, in contrast to the 1930s, this critique has not gone further to challenge the hegemony of the system as a whole. One reason may be the role of the media, more powerful than ever before, in mediating the reaction to the crisis among the general public. The paper examines the public’s understanding of the financial crisis in relation to the media. Using specially commissioned public opinion data in the UK, the research examines public attitudes to the financial crisis and the relative blame attached to bankers, politicians, and regulators. It also measures the broader understanding of the origins of the crisis, and how that relates to political and social attitudes. It then examines how the public gets its information about the crisis, how it is consumed, and what it thinks about the coverage. The data reveals a dramatic increase in media use since the crisis began, but serious questions about the value of that coverage. There is also deep scepticism about the objectivity of the media, and a widespread belief that it is too dominated by corporate interests. The increased involvement with the issue is particularly marked among previously excluded social groups, including women, the less well-off, and those who are financially stressed. The research suggests that the better informed people are about the crisis, the more sceptical they are of the media’s role in covering it. This paper makes a unique contribution to the scholarly understanding of the crisis by delineating the limits of the ability of hegemonic media to define the crisis, and by examining the way in which new social and economic forces are radically shifting public attitudes and perceptions.

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