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article imageSatirical news has significant influence on public opinion

By Tim Sandle     Jan 29, 2017 in Politics
Satirical news shows are not only entertaining, they also help reinforce or alter perception, especially in relation to political opinion. New research demonstrates the reinforcing power of the media and makes some telling points for the post-Trump world.
Although most satirical news programs are perceived as light entertainment, the political effects should not be understated. The new study found that those who regularly view satirical news end up having their political opinions reinforced to the same degree as exposure to serious news.
The findings, from Ohio State University, are important in relation to political opinion and voting intention, especially for people who are not overly interested in politics and who will opt to watch satirical news over serious news.
The researchers undertook to assess the impact of satirical news in the U.S., highlighting broadcasts like The Daily Show, where comedy and satire are used to dissect the day’s events. To assess the impact 146 students were asked to participate in an experiment. The students were shown news clips about such topical subjects as climate change, gun control and immigration.
The news clips were put onto an overview page, made up of eight squares. The students were told that four of the clips were either taken from a news outlet with a left-leaning bias (MSNBC) or four a right-wing outlet (Fox News). The remaining four, the students were told, were from two satirical news outlets. One satirical news channel was left-wing (The Spoof) and the other right-wing (Mock the Week). However, in reality, all slips were from C-SPAN (Cable-Satellite Public Affairs Network), which seeks to be neutral.
For the videos went to be satirical the researchers added a comical text crawl to the C-SPAN footage. The participants selected the videos they wanted to watch and then underwent a questionnaire. The questions related to their attitudes to the topics they had seen and also their own feelings about being able to influence political change. They were also surveyed on the types of media they normally watch, as well as their political preferences.
The findings showed that the students tended to select serious news clips more often than the satirical ones. However, those who said they had a low interest in politics said they moist often watched satirical news. This indicates the role that satirical news can play in shaping opinions.
The research showed that the students tended to opt for clips according to their political preferences, so that those who said they voted Republican tended to pick Fox News or Mock the Week, and vice versa for the Democrat or independent supporters.
The study found that not only satirical news tends to reinforce established political views it also influenced feelings of what is termed political efficacy; that is the belief that a person can influence political processes. The survey found that the participants' political views tended to be strengthened if they viewed videos that agreed with their original beliefs.
The research has been published in the Journal of Communication, in a paper headed “Selecting Serious or Satirical, Supporting or Stirring News? Selective Exposure to Partisan versus Mockery News Online Videos.”
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