Comedian's political humor affects potential voter's attitudes about candidates

Nov 06, 2012

Comedians publicly ridiculing a presidential candidate may cause audiences to have negative attitudes toward that individual, according to a study by Amy Bree Becker, Assistant Professor at Towson University.

The study, set to be published in the November 2012 issue of Mass Communication and Society, found that about a candidate were affected by viewing critical comedy content, irrespective of whether the viewer self-identified as a Republican or Democrat. In the study which focused on the 2008 presidential election between Barack Obama and John McCain, some participants watched a video clip from The Colbert Report mocking the McCain campaign, while other participants viewed a clip of mocking himself on an episode of Saturday Night Live. While both Democratic and Republican participants appreciated McCain's self-deprecating humor, viewing the SNL clip did not result in a significant change in attitudes towards the Republican candidate. Viewing Colbert's hostile humor, however, resulted in significantly more negative evaluations of McCain.

"The results of this research point out both the of being the constant target of political satire programming and the potential benefit of appearing on political comedy programs to engage  in self-ridicule," Dr. Amy Bree Becker, the article's author said.

As the 2012 election nears, television shows such as The Colbert Report, Saturday Night Live and The Daily Show with Jon Stewart will continue to mock the presidential candidates. For example, Saturday Night Live has received heavy media coverage because of the show's humorous portrayals of , , and Republican vice-presidential candidate, Paul Ryan. This research suggests that candidates may win over voters' attitudes if they can handle the ridicule, and even joke about it, rather than going on the defense.

"In reality, the critical comedy people are used to from programs like The Colbert Report and The Daily Show promotes toward the comic target, while self-directed humor may actually prove to be a very useful and strategic tool for candidates looking to appeal to voters," Dr. Becker said. "Moving forward, politicians will need to become more skilled at deflecting humor directed at them and also be able to tell a good joke."

Dr. Becker's study featured over 400 college-aged participants. The study measured their political interest, partisanship, and feelings toward politicians. The article entitled, "Comedy Types and Political Campaigns: The Differential Influence of Other-Directed Hostile and Self-Ridicule on Candidate Evaluations," was researched and written by Dr. Amy Bree Becker, Towson University.

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User comments : 4

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Squirrel
not rated yet Nov 06, 2012
Looks like a sample of one politician (John McCain). It thus could be an effect peculiar that individual or a limited subset of politicians of which he is one. For example, that the Colbert Report highlight some negative aspect of McCain that had escaped the research participants but which was not focused upon in his self-mocking.
antialias_physorg
3 / 5 (2) Nov 06, 2012
viewing the SNL clip did not result in a significant change in attitudes towards the Republican candidate. Viewing Colbert's hostile humor, however, resulted in significantly more negative evaluations of McCain.

Really depends on what kind of humor it was. I hardly think McCaine would make a self deprecating statement about something that he objectively did wrong (policy issues). Colbert does seem to make fun based on researched material. So if the humor contains a kernel of truth then I can see where such humor would be more effective at influencing opionion.

In reality, the critical comedy people are used to from programs like The Colbert Report and The Daily Show promotes negative attitudes toward the comic target,

Well, duh. They are (news) satire shows. Ever heard of positive satire? Me neither.
antialias_physorg
1 / 5 (1) Nov 06, 2012
"Moving forward, politicians will need to become more skilled at deflecting humor directed at them and also be able to tell a good joke."

If politicians weren't so inept/deceitful/bigoted then they'd not be the object of satire so much. So politicians shouldn't learn to deflect humor. Instead they should learn to do their job better.

I have noticed this in germany. The politicians who actually do a good job are hardly ever the object of satire - independently of which part of the political spectrum they belong to.
Caliban
1 / 5 (1) Nov 06, 2012

The effect described is precisely the origin and purpose of Satire, and it has been employed to this effect since it was first devised sometime before History began.

The fact that someone felt that it was an area where "research" needed to be applied I find apalling.

Murica, Nation of morons.