You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

New Study Links ‘The Colbert Report’ to Presidential Election Campaign Knowledge

It looks like watching “The Colbert Report” can help viewers learn a thing or two about campaign financing.

A new study at the University of Pennsylvania’s Annenberg Public Policy Center found that those who tuned in to watch host Stephen Colbert set up a super PAC and 501(c)(4) organization during the last presidential election cycle were better informed about campaign financing and the role of money in politics than viewers of other news channels and shows.

“It’s the first study actually showing that Colbert is doing a better job than other news sources at teaching people about campaign financing,” said Bruce W. Hardy, Ph.D., lead author of the study and a senior researcher at the APPC. “Consistently, we found that Colbert did better than every other news source we included in our model.”

The study, dubbed “Stephen Colbert’s Civics Lesson,” was published online and 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. It 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.

Researchers said Colbert’s show increased viewers’ perceptions in that they knew more about political financing and also increased their actual knowledge, doing so at a greater rate than other news sources. Reading a daily newspaper, listening to talk radio and watching Fox News were cited as other activities that increased knowledge about super PACs and 501(c)(4)s, but to a lesser degree.

“Colbert did better than any other news source at teaching,” Hardy said. “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.”

Comedy Central’s “The Colbert Report” has taken a critical and satirical look at the world of campaign financing since 2011, when former federal election commission chairman Trevor Potts advised Colbert on how to set up a political action committee.

Though a 2008 study of Jon Stewart’s “The Daily Show” found it less effective than traditional news media at informing viewers about the Supreme Court nominating process, the current study suggests that the two examples are very different since “The Colbert Report” succeeds by allowing Colbert to play an activist role.

That study concluded that “Colbert’s efforts were educational, not just a proliferation of jokes.”

The co-authors of the study were Jeffrey A. Gottfried, a research associate at the Pew Research Center, Kenneth M. Winneg, managing director of survey research at APPC, and Kathleen Hall Jamieson, director of APPC.

More TV

  • Charmed -- "Let This Mother Out"

    'Charmed' Showrunner Exits, Craig Shapiro & Elizabeth Kruger Board Series

    The CW’s reboot of “Charmed” is changing showrunners. Variety has learned that Carter Covington has stepped down as showrunner on the series, which has already been renewed for a second season. Husband and wife team Craig Shapiro and Elizabeth Kruger have been brought on to helm the series going forward. Shapiro and Kruger are currently [...]

  • Apple TV Plus Reese Witherspoon Jennifer

    What We Know About 'Amazing Stories' And Other Shows Coming to Apple TV+

    Viewers got a sneak peek of upcoming shows coming to Apple TV+, Apple’s newly unveiled streaming service, during the company’s live-streamed event in Cupertino, Calif., on Monday. The stars and creators of the most highly anticipated projects like Steven Spielberg’s “Amazing Stories” and “The Morning Show” from Reese Witherspoon appeared on stage to reveal more [...]

  • WARNING: Embargoed for publication until 00:00:01

    Richard Gere Series 'MotherFatherSon' Sold to Multiple Territories

    BBC Studios, the British public broadcaster’s commercial arm, has announced a raft of territory sales for Richard Gere starrer “MotherFatherSon,” a drama series written by Tom Rob Smith, Emmy-nominated for “The Assassination of Gianni Versace.” The show will screen Tuesday at Series Mania, France, in the International Panorama section. Buyers for the eight-part thriller include [...]

  • TV News Roundup: Netflix Releases Trailer

    TV News Roundup: Netflix Releases Trailer for 'Special'

    In today’s roundup, Netflix releases a trailer for “Special,” and Wrestlemania’s main event will be a women’s match, a first in WWE history. FIRST LOOKS Netflix has released the trailer for its upcoming 15-minute comedy show “Special.” Ryan O’Connell stars in the semi-autobiographical series about life as a gay man with cerebral palsy. The series is [...]

  • Apple Event: Everything We Learned From

    Everything We Learned From Today's Apple Event

    After revealing new services in news, finance, and gaming, Apple CEO Tim Cook kept the biggest, most anticipated announcement until last. Cook, along with heads of worldwide video programming Zack Van Amburg and Jamie Erlicht, and a whole group of Apple’s creative talents, presented the company’s new Apple TV+ streaming service, which is slated to [...]

  • Lauren Whitney

    Miramax President of TV Lauren Whitney Exits to Join Spyglass Media Group

    Lauren Whitney, the president of television for Miramax, is leaving the company, Variety has learned. She will now become the president of television for Spyglass Media Group effective April 1. The news comes less than two years after Whitney first joined Miramax. There, she oversaw the studio’s television development, in addition to “Spy City,” produced by [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content