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Missing the Point of the “Daily Show Effect”

June 23rd, 2006

The Washington Post is running an column today explaining the findings of two East Carolina University political scientists. They exposed one group of college students to just the Daily Show coverage of the 2004 elections and another group of college students to just CBS Evening News. To quote directly from the article:

The results showed that the participants rated both candidates more negatively after watching Stewart’s program. Participants also expressed less trust in the electoral system and more cynical views of the news media, according to the researchers’ article, in the latest issue of American Politics Research.

The article wonders if the Daily Show is somehow “poisoning democracy?”

Allow me to stand up for John Stewart and say he’s not poisoning democracy, he’s showing it for what it really is and his delivery is so perfect and the situation so absurd that people are getting the message. With any luck the reduced voter turn out will continue as my generation gets older until the powers that be wake up and realize that the farce has been uncovered.

The younger generation has access to more information, more analysis, more dirt than any generation in American history. I would expect that generation to use that knowledge to improve the system… but the first step is to identify and reject the flaws of the current one. The key question this column raises for me is whether political actors will now denounce Mr. Stewart and his show, or will they realize the errors of their ways and clean up the system?

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