The Norwegian Welfare System (NAV) on the Agenda: Media Coverage and Public Opinion
My PhD-project is a case study that examines the relationship between the press coverage and the public opinions toward the Norwegian Labour and Welfare Administration (NAV). This welfare reform/administration has been criticized and was in early 2009 described as a “welfare-crisis”. The press coverage is measured with a quantitative content analysis and then compared with public opinion surveys and user-satisfaction surveys. I work on the basis of a hypothesis that the media coverage of NAV has been more or less one-sidedly critical and negative, and that this has affected the public’s perception of NAV. To investigate this hypothesis, I will seek to answer the following research questions: RQ1: How is NAV portrayed in the media? Here I seek to investigate whether the media coverage has been biased to the advantage of critics, how NAV is treated as a source. RQ2: How are NAV’s users (the welfare-users) portrayed in the media? Is the coverage dominated by human interest stories or context and larger thematic issues? RQ3: Does the public’s perception of NAV correlate with the press coverage of NAV? Here I will compare public opinion surveys and user-satisfaction surveys with a content analysis of the media coverage. Methodology: I am carrying out a quantitative content analysis to examine the media coverage. The selection is four large Norwegian newspapers – one local, two regional and one regional/national newspaper. I have also selected the largest Norwegian online newspaper. I have chosen strategically selected periods (21 months) during the period 2005-2011. This analysis investigates the media coverage in terms of tone (negative, balanced and positive) and volume. Furthermore, it asks which sources, genres and themes are dominating the coverage. The surveys of public opinion are secondary empirical data provided by Norwegian marked research bureaus – conducted on behalf of NAV. The surveys stretch from 2008 to 2012 with two surveys each year (in September and March). The surveys of user satisfaction is conducted and provided by NAV. Theory: The analysis will be illustrated with theories regarding the media's social contract and media effects. The theories of media effects will be used to compare the analysis of the media coverage with the public opinion surveys. The theoretical focus will be the media effects agenda setting and framing. Framing can be explained as a media effect based on the assumption that how the media are discussing, reflecting upon and presenting the news, can influence how the public views important social issues.