Researchers Jody Baumgartner and Jonathan S. Morris, both assistant professors of political science at East Carolina University, selected The Daily Show due to its popularity among college-aged viewers. Previous research showed that over 47 percent of this age group watched the 'soft news' television program, while only 23 percent followed 'hard news' programs closely.
The study was conducted utilizing video clips from The Daily Show and CBS Evening News, a more mainstream television program that aired coverage of the 2004 presidential candidates, followed by a questionnaire. The results showed that the participants tended to rate both candidates more negatively when exposed to The Daily Show. In addition, their views of the political system as a whole were more cynical.
"If young Americans learn about candidates via Jon Stewart," the researchers conclude in the article, "it is possible that unfavorable perceptions of both parties' nominees could form, ultimately keeping more youth from the polls." These implications for political participation should be explored further.
The American Politics Research article "The Daily Show Effect: Candidate Evaluations, Efficacy, and American Youth" can be accessed at no charge for a limited time at http://apr.sagepub.com/cgi/reprint/34/3/341.
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