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The Influence of Late-Night TV Comedy Viewing on Political Talk: A Moderated-Mediation Model

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The Influence of Late-Night TV Comedy Viewing on Political Talk: A Moderated-Mediation Model
Transcript  Press/PoliticsThe International Journal of online version of this article can be found at: DOI: 10.1177/1940161210371506July 2010 2010 15: 482 srcinally published online 8 The International Journal of Press/Politics  Kristen D. Landreville, R. Lance Holbert and Heather L. LaMarre Moderated-Mediation ModelThe Influence of Late-Night TV Comedy Viewing on Political Talk: A  Published by:  can be found at: The International Journal of Press/Politics  Additional services and information for Email Alerts: Subscriptions: Reprints: Permissions: Citations:  at Ruhr-Universitaet Bochum on September 2, 2011hij.sagepub.comDownloaded from   Research Articles International Journal of Press/Politics15(4) 482  –498© The Author(s) 2010Reprints and permission: http://www. 10.1177/1940161210371506 The Influence of Late- Night TV Comedy Viewing on Political Talk: A Moderated- Mediation Model Kristen D. Landreville 1 , R. Lance Holbert 2 , and Heather L. LaMarre 3 Abstract This study is focused on the influence of late-night TV comedy viewing on political talk. It is posited that debate viewing serves as a mediator of this relationship, and age is argued to be a moderator of the association between late-night TV comedy viewing and debate viewing. More specific to age, it is hypothesized that the predictive value of late-night TV comedy for political debate consumption will be greater for those audience members who are younger. A secondary analysis of 2004 national Annenberg debate panel data provides evidence of a positive indirect effect of late-night TV comedy viewing on political talk through debate viewing, and the moderator of age functioned as predicted. Thus, this study details a series of positive unintended consequences of late-night TV comedy viewing on what are defined normatively as positive democratic communicative activities (i.e., debate viewing, political discussion), and these media effects are stronger the younger the voter. Keywords entertainment media, late-night TV comedy, debate viewing, political discussion Political theorists from Aristotle to James Bryce to Jürgen Habermas have argued that rational political discourse is essential for a healthy, well-functioning democracy 1 University of Wyoming, Laramie, WY, USA 2 The Ohio State University, Columbus, OH, USA 3 University of Minnesota–Twin Cities, Minneapolis-St. Paul, MN, USA Corresponding Author: R. Lance Holbert, School of Communication, The Ohio State University, 3016 Derby Hall, Columbus OH, USA 43210Email:  at Ruhr-Universitaet Bochum on September 2, 2011hij.sagepub.comDownloaded from   Landreville et al. 483 (Price 1992). Political discourse involves the confrontation of ideas, which John Dewey (1922: 300) regarded as positive: “Conflict is the gadfly of thought. It stirs us to observation and memory. It instigates to invention.” During a political campaign, discourse revolves around a discussion of ideas, which creates a view of political cam- paigns that can be interpreted as a process of discourse among citizens (Pan et al. 2006).This study focuses on the influence of late-night TV comedy viewing on political discussion. Various late-night comedy shows devote significant time and attention to  political matters, and as a result, these programs have received a considerable amount of attention of late within the political communication literature (e.g., Fox et al. 2007; Holbert et al. 2007; LaMarre et al. 2009; Moy et al. 2005, 2006; Young 2004; Young and Tisinger 2006). More specific to the interests of this study, recently published empirical research has pointed to entertainment-based political media content having the potential to generate increased levels of political discourse (see Nabi et al. 2007; Stroud 2007). Holbert and colleagues (Holbert 2005b; Holbert and Benoit 2009) have stressed the need to study the relationships between various types of political commu-nication activities, and Eveland et al. (2005) emphasize this point relative to the rela-tionship between political media and interpersonal political communication. Building off this work, the present study focuses on a process of media influence involving late-night TV comedy viewing, debate viewing, and political talk. In addition, much dis-cussion has been raised about the specific influences of late-night TV comedy on younger voters (e.g., Hart and Hartelius 2007), so age is afforded a special role as moderator within the process of media influence that is the foundation of this study. The Study of Political Communication Information Outlet Relations Most empirical studies on political communication campaign effects reflect one of two classifications (Holbert and Benoit 2009). Some research projects focus on a single information outlet, whether it be political talk radio (e.g., Barker 2002), a political debate (e.g., Banwart and McKinney 2005; Holbert et al. 2009), or television news (Farnsworth and Lichter 2006), to name just a few examples. A second study type introduces a larger number of outlets to compare and contrast the effects of various forms of communication on a given outcome variable. This type of research addresses the general research question, “Which mass communication outlet has the greatest effect?” (Holbert 2005b; Martinelli and Chaffee 1995). The political communication literature is saturated with studies that fit this mold (e.g., Brians and Wattenberg 1996; Drew and Weaver 2006; Holbert et al. 2002; Moy and Pfau 2000; Patterson and McClure 1976; Pfau et al. 2005; Tsfati et al. 2009).While the two study types are distinct in terms of the number of political communi-cation outlets analyzed,   they are similar in that neither area of research attends to how the various political communication sources relate to one another   to produce a set of communicative processes that influence a host of democratic outcomes (Holbert and Benoit 2009). Holbert (2005b) in his study of intramedia mediation argues that “the discipline has failed to properly address the relationships that exist among various at Ruhr-Universitaet Bochum on September 2, 2011hij.sagepub.comDownloaded from   484 International Journal of Press/Politics 15(4) forms of media use” within the context of political campaigns (p. 448). Moreover, there is evidence that communication studies that do not take into account the assess-ment of relationships between multiple information outlets systematically under  repre-sent the overall influence of communication in political contexts.With this being stated, there is a growing body of literature that is beginning to explore the associations between various political communication information outlets (e.g., Eveland et al. 2005; Holbert 2005a, 2005b; Holbert and Benoit 2009; McLeod et al. 1999; Shah and Scheufele 2006). These studies reveal that important communication-to-communication processes have distinct influences on a wide range of outcome variables that span the hierarchy of effects from knowledge to behaviors. Citizens use a variety of communication outlets over the course of an election (Hansen and Benoit 2007), and it is essential for political communication scholars to analyze the relation-ships between multiple information outlets if a truer understanding of political cam- paigns is to be achieved. As Chaffee (1982) has argued, relations between various types of communication should be viewed as complementary, not competitive. To this end, the focus of this particular research effort is on how late-night TV comedy exposure,  political discussion, and debate viewing complement one another within a political campaign. Late-Night TV Comedy Exposure and Debate Viewing The first step in the proposed model of late-night TV comedy influence involves late-night TV comedy viewing as a predictor of debate viewing. Presidential debates are clearly traditional, mass-media-dominated events that attract large, diverse audiences (Carlin 1994), and debates also attract more media coverage than other types of cam- paign events (Kaid et al. 2000). Thus, presidential debate influence is defined much more by reach than specificity (see Schooler et al. 1998), and previous research has shown different types of political media use serve as positive predictors of debate viewing (e.g., Holbert 2005a; Kenski and Stroud 2005).In terms of how late-night TV comedy viewing, a nontraditional political informa-tion source, might be related to debate viewing, a recent study by Young and Tisinger (2006) lends insight. They found that late-night comedy viewing among young people did not stop that demographic from seeking out more traditional forms of news. In fact, young people who reported the highest levels of exposure and learning from late-night comedy shows also reported the highest rates of exposure to traditional news (Young and Tisinger 2006). Their finding also speaks to Chaffee’s (1982) point, men-tioned earlier, that communication outlets need not be in competition with one another. Moreover, late-night comedy shows may encourage viewers to pay more attention to traditional news during a presidential campaign.Indeed, Baum (2003) provides evidence of various forms of entertainment-based television use that supply at least a modicum of political information serving as a “gateway” for the consumption of more traditional varieties of public affairs media. More support of the link between late-night comedy and democratic outcomes is the at Ruhr-Universitaet Bochum on September 2, 2011hij.sagepub.comDownloaded from   Landreville et al. 485 work by Moy et al. (2005), which shows that late-night comedy exposure encourages various types of campaign participation (e.g., displaying a sign for a presidential can-didate, attending a candidate-sponsored event) as well as interpersonal political dis-cussion among political sophisticates. Thus, we expect late-night comedy may also enhance debate viewing exposure.More broadly, Holbert and Benoit (2009) argue as part of their theory of political campaign media connectedness that all types of political media engagement should serve to positively predict debate viewing, regardless of the types of messages (one- versus two-sided) being offered through the political communication information outlets (see debate axiom). Holbert and Benoit’s initial testing of their theory focused on more traditional political media outlets (e.g., television news, newspapers, talk radio),  but these authors also argue that additional research should expand the theory to include entertainment-oriented media outlets that deal with material that is inherently  political. The arguments being put forward in this work allow for late-night TV comedy consumption to be placed within the fold of Holbert and Benoit’s theory.It is also important to recognize the link in popular culture between presidential debates and late-night comedy shows. People have come to expect that Saturday Night  Live and The Daily Show with Jon Stewart  ,   with reputations for debate-related humor, will have extensive predebate and postdebate coverage. For the reasons outlined above, this study suggests that late-night comedy TV exposure will predict higher levels of presidential debate viewing. Thus, the following hypothesis is offered:  Hypothesis 1:  Predebate late-night TV comedy exposure is a positive predictor of debate viewing. Debate Viewing and Political Discussion The political communication literature has produced a great deal of evidence of debate viewing having a wide range of positive democratic outcomes (McKinney and Carlin 2004). For example, presidential debates increase issue knowledge and issue salience, impact perceptions of candidates’ personalities, and affect vote preference (Benoit et al. 2003). Debate viewing can also encourage subsequent media use. Holbert and Benoit (2009) found higher levels of newspaper use and national network TV news exposure after debate viewing. However, political discussion as a communicative outcome of debate viewing has not been studied in any systematic fashion by political communi-cation scholars.One exception is Patterson’s (2002) Vanishing Voter   national survey. He found that 47 percent of respondents surveyed on the day after the first Bush-Gore debate in 2000 talked about the campaign, which was twice the number of an average day; similar results were found for the second and third debates as well. Furthermore, debates broaden the network of discussion partners to include more friends and coworkers in campaign dis-cussions (Patterson 2002). Half of all debate conversations in 2000 were with people other than family members (Patterson 2002), speaking to the potential impact of network at Ruhr-Universitaet Bochum on September 2, 2011hij.sagepub.comDownloaded from 
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