Representations of British Armed Forces Veterans in the Press A Quantitative Analysis of Newspaper Articles

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Rita Phillips
Vince Connelly
Mark Burgess


Previous research has shown that British public perception of veterans can be negative and erroneous. Surveys, for example, indicate that veterans are characterized as skilled and valorous individuals but also as suffering from ill-health, unemployment, and homelessness. To investigate how these beliefs may form, the present study examines the public dimension of knowledge by analyzing depictions of veterans in the media. A total of 335 newspaper articles that represent British veterans were downloaded from Google News and UKPressonline. After the articles were classified with a content analysis, chi-square tests were conducted to understand how the representation of veterans
may be related to the political affiliations of news agencies and by newspaper format. The results suggest that British veterans are predominantly represented in both heroic and victimizing contexts. While political affiliation did not affect the representation of veterans significantly, newspaper format did, with broadsheet (quality) newspapers emphasizing victimized contexts and local and international newspapers focusing on heroic contexts, with tabloids occupying a middle ground. In conclusion, broadsheet newspapers may express sociocultural scrutiny toward the ways in which veterans are treated, while local and international newspapers may focus on stereotypical representations of heroic British military actions that veterans may symbolize. Implications and conclusions are discussed.

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Author Biographies

Rita Phillips, Robert Gordon University

Rita Phillips completed her PhD at Oxford Brookes University. As a lecturer in psychology she focuses her research on social psychological phenomena in everyday life. In her recent research, she examines public perceptions of veterans by investigating how perceptions may be justified and reflected upon at the individual level and how publicly prevalent perceptions may affect the self-perceptions of veterans. She has worked as a Mellon-Sawyer Fellow at the University of Oxford and has received several awards for her research.

Vince Connelly, Oxford Brookes University

Vince Connelly is professor of psychology at Oxford Brookes University. He has been involved in a number of research projects regarding military personnel, families, and veterans over the last ten years. Other projects have included working with the British Army to provide practical advice to those leaving the army as well as reviews of military mental health provision and military engagement with society. He also has an interest in special education and has published widely on the development of writing skills across the lifespan.

Mark Burgess, Oxford Brookes University

Mark Burgess received his PhD from the University of Alberta and is a reader in psychology at Oxford Brookes University. His research focuses on transformative experiences. As part of this research he has interviewed terrorists, peaceful protestors, victims of violence, politicians, and military personnel. His current research is focused largely on people’s experiences of erotic love over their lifespan.