Stories and pictures in the mass media form an important basis for creating opinions of ‘the poor’ and welfare recipients. The media content influences who we think these people are, how we think they behave and what we think should be done to either help or punish them. In The Rise and Fall of Social Cohesion, Christian Albrekt Larsen illustrates how the US and UK are caught in a vicious circle. High levels of poverty and a targeted welfare system produce a large volume of newsworthy negative stories, which make further punishment the most likely political response. Who would want to help scroungers and spongers? In contrast, Sweden and Denmark are caught in a virtuous circle. Low levels of poverty and a universal welfare system reduce the amount of newsworthy negative stories and allow room for stories about the deserving poor. Who does not want to help our ordinary fellow citizens in need? Here, he describes his research.