“This system is rigged”: A social media listening exploration revealing how people are talking about poverty online


In partnership with the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, we have developed an innovative method of social media listening to shed light on the experiences of people living in financial hardship. Our approach builds up a fine-grained understanding of how people talk about poverty in online support spaces, by combining computational text analysis with qualitative content analysis at multiple points throughout 2024.

We found harrowing – and all-too common – stories of the challenges faced by those in need of government support in accessing basic necessities, from safe housing to adequate disability support. At the same time, we saw evidence of community building and non-traditional political engagement. This included detailed scrutiny of the impact of the controversial Data Protection and Digital Identity Bill on already marginalised benefit claimants, further reinforcing existing distrust in politics in the wake of the Post Office scandal and other high-profile incidents.

Over the course of this summer, we’ll be publishing more data, looking specifically at the challenges facing the carers of those with mental and physical health challenges, as well as the role of charities and advocacy groups in supporting individuals in poverty, both with the material realities of day-to-day life and in advocating for their own rights and dignity.

This research has been guided by JRF’s Grassroots Poverty Action Group, a diverse group of advocates with direct experience of poverty from across the UK.