Sunday, August 7, 2011

Who Watches Faux News?

Faux news -- and here I do not mean Fox News -- is generally considered satirical in nature.  Ya know, Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert.  There has been lots of research done, and quite a few trees killed, in discussing the impact these late-night programs have on news, on politics, and most especially on young voters.  I've done a study or two myself.  Die, tree, die.  I was looking to see if anything new has cropped up of late and came across a new one.

I unfortunately do not have complete access to this study in Communication Monographs, so all I can do is briefly note the abstract.  The good?  Rather than rely on secondary analysis, the authors did their own statewide survey to find four variables did well in predicting political TV satire exposure: "age, exposure to satirical sitcoms, exposure to liberal cable news programming, and the newly explicated and operationalized Affinity for Political Humor scale."

So we don't have a lot to work with from the abstract above.  Age makes sense, and I'm guessing the "exposure to satirical sitcoms" means that you're drawn to certain kinds of programming.  Being liberal and watching liberal cable news, that makes sense too.  And then we have a "newly explicated" scale that, I'm guessing, measures how much one likes, or responds to, political humor.  I love individual differences research, so seeing a scale being developed to get at this, that warms my psychological heart.  I will have to look this one up once I can get full access to the article.

I also came across this Communication Research Reports article that, best I can tell with access only to the abstract (sense my growing frustration?) argues that we cannot consider these late-night programs as monolithic, that Colbert and Stewart differ from all the other programs.

Now we all kinda know this, but it's important to systematically examine and establish these points.  As the abstract notes:
Results suggest that viewing satire or parody has positive and significant effects on political participation through the mediator of political efficacy, as does viewing traditional TV news. However, this relationship is not borne out for viewers of traditional late-night comedy. Implications and directions for future research are discussed.
That's fascinating stuff, the different relationships as pertaining to political participation.  Somehow efficacy matters.  While it's hard to tell from the abstract, I'm guessing that for differing levels of self efficacy we see different effects on political participation -- but only when it comes to news or parody faux news programs -- not traditional late-night comedy like Jay Leno.

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