A new study by The Annenberg Public Policy Center found that Stephen Colbert viewers knew more about super PACs and campaign finance than viewers of Fox News did.
Via a press release announcing the findings of the study:
The study, published online in Mass Communication and Society, tested “The Colbert Report” against CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, and broadcast nightly news, as well as talk radio and newspapers as sources of political information. The study, “Stephen Colbert’s Civics Lesson,” was based on phone survey data from 1,232 adults 18 years or older who were interviewed between Dec. 13, 2012 and Dec. 23, 2012.
Watching “The Colbert Report” served as “an extended civics lesson,” the researchers said. The show not only increased people’s perceptions that they knew more about political financing, but significantly increased their actual knowledge, and did so at a greater rate than other news sources. Other activities that also increased knowledge about super PACs and 501(c)(4)s, but to a lesser degree, included reading a daily newspaper, listening to talk radio, and watching Fox News.
“Colbert did better than any other news source at teaching,” said Bruce W. Hardy, Ph.D., lead author of the
study and a senior researcher at the Annenberg Public Policy Center (APPC) of the University of
Pennsylvania. “There were two reasons. First was the narrative structure. He walked us through creating a super PAC and every episode was a continuation of that story. And second was the use of humor and satire.”
The fact that Colbert did a better job of educating his viewers than all three cable news networks is not a surprise. CNN and MSNBC have largely ignored the issue while Fox News has been spreading misinformation about conservative super PACs for years.
Campaign finance is not a glamour issue on cable news, so it largely gets ignored unless Sen. Bernie Sanders is doing the talking. Stephen Colbert provided a real public service by creating his own super PAC and taking viewers along for the ride. One of the best and most informative segments, of any Sunday show in the past few years was Stephen Colbert’s appearance on ABC’s This Week in January of 2012.
Video of Colbert on This Week in 2012:
One of the reasons why everyone should miss Stephen Colbert when he moves over to CBS to takeover for David Letterman next year is that he won’t be doing the Colbert character. His Comedy Central program has provided a format for Colbert to inform and educate through some profoundly intelligent satire.
Both Colbert and Jon Stewart are great at informing and educating their viewers. There is no better critic of cable news in this country than Jon Stewart. Fox News is the number one cable news network because they have managed to con a couple of million conservatives into believing that their Republican propaganda is the truth.
If people want to be better informed, it will be advisable for them to turn off all three cable networks. Satire often contains truth, and it speaks volumes about the state of cable news that faux host on a comedy network can better inform than the people that are supposed to be delivering the news.
This is another reason why America will miss Comedy Central’s Stephen Colbert.
Jason is the managing editor. He is also a White House Press Pool and a Congressional correspondent for PoliticusUSA. Jason has a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science. His graduate work focused on public policy, with a specialization in social reform movements.
Awards and Professional Memberships
Member of the Society of Professional Journalists and The American Political Science Association