Various authors point to the connection between public perceptions of poverty and institutionalised strategies of dealing with the poor. The way the general public perceives the poor, and especially the causes of poverty, is generally assumed to have a profound influence on the legitimacy of anti-poverty policies. Yet studies on popular perceptions of and attributions for poverty are relatively infrequent. Moreover, a considerable share of existing research appears conceptually and/or methodologically inadequate. This article provides a critical review of existing literature that is interwoven into the discussion of the two most common approaches to studying lay poverty attributions: the factor analytical approach and the forced-choice-question approach. With respect to the latter, we present an empirical analysis and interpretation of the four response categories that constitute the core of the forced-choice question included in Eurobarometer.