Under 30

I can't complain but sometimes I still do

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Is this man keeping you from voting?

Two researchers from East Carolina University have concluded that "The Daily Show" keeps young people from voting.

We find that participants exposed to jokes about George W. Bush and John Kerry on The Daily Show tended to rate both candidates more negatively, even when controlling for partisanship and other demographic variables. Moreover, we find that viewers exhibit more cynicism toward the electoral system and the news media at large. Despite these negative reactions, viewers of The Daily Show reported increased confidence in their ability to understand the complicated world of politics. Our findings are significant in the burgeoning field of research on the effects of "soft news" on the American public. Although research indicates that soft news contributes to democratic citizenship in America by reaching out to the inattentive public, our findings indicate that The Daily Show may have more detrimental effects, driving down support for political institutions and leaders among those already inclined toward nonparticipation.

First off, who knew there was an East Carolina? (Hey, Paul, why didn't you tell me about this?) Secondly, regular readers know I'm a Jon Stewart fan boy, so my knee-jerk reaction to this is to say, "Screw you, East Carolina!" But this study raises an interesting point: Does satire make people apathetic? As a lover of satire, my heart says no. But my head isn't so sure. The core audience for "The Daily Show" likely wouldn't get any political information without the show, so I'm inclined to think they're better off with Jon Stewart than, say, "Mad TV." (The single unfunniest show to ever last more than 10 years.)

But there is an undeniable self-congratulatory undercurrent running through "The Daily Show" that compliments people for thinking the system sucks, politicians are liars and the whole "serious news" thing is ridiculous. And that's not exactly a message that encourages people to get involved. Rather, it says, "You're OK sitting on your couch and being cynical about everything without really knowing anything." I'm not comfortable with that conclusion, and I'm even more uncomfortable with the idea that I'm susceptible to such reassurances, but my gut says it's true.

It just goes to show that in this media culture, man can't live on one source of information alone.

6 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

the whole "serious news" thing is ridiculous.

ain't it the truth? who are these people

11:52 AM  
Anonymous gavin said...

First, I agree completely about "Mad TV"... not funny at all.

I don't know if I agree with this study. I cannot think of any other source besides The Daily Show or the Colbert Report that accurately call the politicians on their BS. I wish a "real" news show would od that, but it doesn't work that way...

But I also get my news fro ma variety of sources. Maybe without these sources to put TDS in context I'd be just as likely to grab a bong as my voter's registration card.

2:39 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

do u really know where your reg card is? i haven't the foggiest. i just rely on the absentee ballot showing up each election

6:47 PM  
Anonymous gavin said...

In my wallet, right next to my Ralph's card.

2:19 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Similar idea here.

10:30 AM  
Blogger darlene said...

My 3 kids & I have several TV shows that we watch together and The Daily Show is one of them. I enjoy the show just as much as my 18 year old son does. The show lets us see the politicians in Washington as they really are, without the "spin".

I can't believe this study. My older sons have not missed voting in any election since they turned 18. I think that the researchers should have looked more at how important voting is to the parents of young people. If political issues are discussed at home and voting is important to the parents, then kids will be more likely to vote.

11:50 PM  

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