Tuesday, September 23, 2008

An Economic Model of Information Provision by the Daily Show with Jon Stewart

Not really, but close. "Media versus Special Interests" by Alexander Dyck, David Moss, and Luigi Zingales. Here's the abstract:
We argue that profit-maximizing media help overcome the problem of "rational ignorance" highlighted by Downs (1957) and in so doing make elected representatives more sensitive to the interests of general voters. By collecting news and combining it with entertainment, media are able to inform passive voters on politically relevant issues. To show the impact this information has on legislative outcomes, we document the effect "muckraking" magazines had on the voting patterns of U.S. representatives and senators in the early part of the 20th century. We also show under what conditions profit-maximizing media will cater to general (less affluent) voters in their coverage, providing a counterbalance to special interests.
So in an effort to draw consumers and make a profit, firms bundle the information in an entertaining way that makes consumers more likely to remember it and more likely to listen to it. Remember this story from the last presidential election:
In a recent survey, viewers of Stewart's "The Daily Show" on Comedy Central tested better than Letterman and Leno viewers on a six-question politics quiz.

Viewers of all three shows know more about the background of presidential candidates and their positions on issues than people who don't watch late-night TV.

On top of that, "Daily Show" viewers know more about election issues than people who regularly read newspapers or watch television news, according to the National Annenberg Election Survey.
Also relevant 2007 survey here:

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