March 9, 2012 Leave a comment
Way back in the Texas Tech days I started some work on a political humor project with my friend Cherie Maestas. Never quite went anywhere– mostly out of my laziness, I presume. Back then, of course, it was simply looking at the power of viewing late night comedy, i.e., Letterman, Leno, and SNL on political attitudes. No youtube clips. Nothing shared on Facebook. Because, of course, these did not yet exist. When I think of all that comes through my FB feed, I think the potential influence (mostly Jon Stewart and Colbert these days) has the potential for so much more.
Anyway, glad to know that had I followed through, this would’ve proven a fruitful line of research. Wonkblog’s Sarah Kliff highlights a recent study that demonstrated the power of Tina Fey’s Sarah Palin impression:
Political scientists Jody Baumgardner, Jonathan Morris and Natasha Walth draw an interesting connection between late night television and electoral politics. They find, in a forthcoming Public Opinions Quarterly paper, that watching Tina Fey’s impressions of Sarah Palin on “Saturday Night Live” was associated with young Republicans and Independents becoming less likely to support the 2008 Republican ticket.
“When all other variables in the model are held at their mean, those who watched the SNL clip had a 45.4 percent probability of saying that Palin’s nomination made them less likely to vote for McCain,” they write. “This same probability drops to 34 percent among those who saw coverage of the debate through other media. Exposure to the clip had no significant effect on the likelihood of voting for Obama.”
When you think about how many people actually think Sarah Palin said, “I can see Alaska from my backyard” it’s not surprising that this had an impact. Still, sometimes it’s nice to see political science confirm things that intuitively make sense. And, of course, it also lets us know that political humor can really matter.