Benefits Street: Good TV, and Fair

January 29, 2014, 9:34 AM GMT+0

Amongst people who have actually watched Benefits Street, most say that it is good TV and that it fairly portrays life in impoverished communities

Ever since it first aired on 6th January, Channel 4’s Benefits Street has caused outrage. After episode one, a number of James Turner street residents who appeared in the programme said they had been lied to about its intentions and wrongly portrayed; after episode two, Channel 4 said they would be given right of reply in a live TV debate; by episode four, it has received 1,700 complaints.

Now a new YouGov survey finds the programme is a big hit with viewers, and amongst those who have actually watched it, the majority do not think it is unfair or in bad taste.

A sizeable third (33%) of the population have seen at least some of Benefits Street on TV. Of those, 78% say they might or will definitely watch it again and only 20% say they probably or definitely will not.

Unambiguously, 62% of viewers say the programme is ‘good TV’ while only 30% say it is bad TV.

Most interestingly, amid claims that “[James Turner] street has been turned into a zoo and the residents feel like they are exhibits”, viewers who say the programme is fair outnumber those who say it is unfair two to one.

59% of viewers say Benefits Street “fairly portrays what life is like in impoverished communities and the difficult issues it brings up”, while 23 say it “unfairly portrays poor people and creates resentment towards people in real need”.

Further, people who are actually claiming some kind of benefits are more likely to say the programme is fair (34%) than unfair (24%). 28% of those not claiming benefits say the programme is fair, and 22% say it is unfair.

The series finale airs on Channel 4 on Monday 10th February.

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