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The Impact of the Daily Show and the Colbert Report on Public Attentiveness to Science and the Environment

32 Pages Posted: 20 May 2011  

Lauren Feldman

Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey - School of Communication and Information (SC&I)

Anthony Leiserowitz

Yale University

Edward W. Maibach

George Mason University Center for Climate Change Communication

Date Written: May 11, 2011

Abstract

Prior research on the political effects of late-night comedy programs has demonstrated that by piggy-backing political content on entertainment fare, such programs provide a, "gateway," to increased audience attention to news and public affairs, particularly among less politically engaged audiences. Given the heightened coverage of science and environmental topics on Comedy Central’s satirical news programs, "The Daily Show," and, "The Colbert Report," this paper considers whether a similar process could be at work relative to public attention to science and the environment. An analysis of nationally representative survey data finds that audience exposure to, "The Daily Show," and, "The Colbert Report," goes hand-in-hand with attention paid to science and environmental issues, specifically global warming. Moreover, the relationship between satirical news use and attentiveness is most pronounced among those with the least amount of formal education, who might otherwise lack the resources and motivation to pay attention to scientific and environmental issues. In this way, satirical news is an attention equalizer, reducing traditional gaps in attentiveness between those with low and high levels of education.

Keywords: climate change, media effects, environment

JEL Classification: D80

Suggested Citation

Feldman, Lauren and Leiserowitz, Anthony and Maibach, Edward W., The Impact of the Daily Show and the Colbert Report on Public Attentiveness to Science and the Environment (May 11, 2011). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1838730 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1838730

Lauren Feldman (Contact Author)

Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey - School of Communication and Information (SC&I) ( email )

4 Huntington St
New Brunswick, NJ 08901
United States

Anthony Leiserowitz

Yale University ( email )

New Haven, CT 06520
United States

Edward W. Maibach

George Mason University Center for Climate Change Communication ( email )

4400 University Drive
Fairfax, VA 22030
United States

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