Satirical Coverage of the 2012 Presidential Election and its Impact on College-Aged Viewers’ Perception of Candidates

When I studied abroad in Madrid last fall, I found myself watching The Daily Show with Jon Stewart and The Colbert Report online to keep up with the 2012 presidential election. As I watched more and more episodes, I noticed that my opinions about certain candidates shifted. Were the jokes intended to inform the audience about political happenings? Or were the jokes simply meant to entertain viewers and raise the network’s ratings? I began to research online, and I noticed that not only were there no studies on the 2012 presidential election, but also there were no agreed upon conclusions regarding the impact of political satire programs on political engagement.

As such, my research for the Presidential Fellows Program aims to answer the question: How did political satire programs’ coverage of the 2012 presidential election impact college-aged viewers’ perception of candidates? This is one section of my senior thesis in public policy at Duke, which also analyzes political efficacy, political participation, political knowledge, and political participation. However, my Presidential Fellows paper will focus specifically on viewers’ perceptions of incumbent President Barak Obama and former Governor of Massachusetts Mitt Romney. Using exit poll data, surveys, and statistical analysis, I am excited to learn more about this type of media and its effects. I look forward to a great year researching alongside the other participants of the Presidential Fellows Program. Comments are always welcome!

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