Political comedy as a gateway to news use, internal efficacy, and participation: A longitudinal mediation analysis


Despite a great deal of research, much about the effects of political comedy programming on its viewers remains uncertain. One promising line of work has focused on increased internal political efficacy — the sense that one is competent to engage with politics — as an outcome of exposure to political comedy programs. This may explain results showing that viewers are more likely to participate in politics. We extend this approach by considering the role of political comedy’s “gateway” effect in encouraging political media consumption, which can promote additional increases in efficacy and participation. This study provides a theoretical synthesis of prior research and a rigorous empirical test using a representative panel survey of adults in the United States, providing evidence of a relationship between political comedy and participation with both news use and internal efficacy serving as mediators. Furthermore, we find that only political satire, not late-night talk shows, appear to produce these effects.

Human Communication Research
Jacob A. Long
Assistant Professor of Mass Communications