Electronic Theses and Dissertations

Date of Award

2013

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph.D. in Political Science

Department

Political Science

First Advisor

Richard Forgette

Second Advisor

Mark Van Boening

Third Advisor

Michael Henderson

Abstract

Prior works in the social sciences have demonstrated the importance that television can have in shaping the views and outlooks of viewers. Studies have examined how it is that overtly political broadcasting, such as political commercials or ideological cable news channels, can impact viewers. However, precious little scholarship in the field of political science has been devoted to examining how non-news programming, the lion's share of what is shown on television, can shape and mold viewers' outlooks and opinions. Television programming is often built around conflict, presenting a distorted view of the world wherein certain "in-groups," mainly the assumed audience of the broadcast, are invited to ridicule or feel hostility towards certain "out-groups." It is hypothesized that non-news programming can influence how television viewers feel toward the "out-groups" targeted for ridicule or exclusion in their broadcasts. In order to test this hypothesis, both statistical analysis of pre-assembled data and an experimental design will be utilized. Cross-sectional data assembled by GSS and Annenberg will be analyzed using logit and ordinary least square models. Controlling for the socio-demographic, partisan, and ideological characteristics of a typical viewer of late-night satirical broadcasting or religious broadcasting, it is demonstrated that increased viewing of these types of television programs is significantly correlated with increased antipathy toward the "out-groups" or public figures held up for scorn or ridicule during these programs. The experimental design involves an online survey where respondents answered a series of questions pertaining to their political views, political knowledge, and socio-demographic characteristics. Respondents were then randomly selected to be exposed to one of three video clips, one of religious broadcasting discussing California's Proposition 8, one of satirical broadcasting discussing California's Proposition 8, and a sample of network news discussing the same issue. A post-screening questionnaire regarding feelings towards targeted out-groups was then administered to the subjects. Exposure non-news television programming increased antipathy toward the "out-groups" targeted for hostility or ridicule within the television clips.

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