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Colbert More Effective At Teaching Campaign Finance Than Professional Journalists, Study Shows

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A new study conducted at the University of Pennsylvania suggests that Comedy Central host Stephen Colbert explains campaign finance more effectively than any news source.  The faux-news host, while primarily a comedian, has become a source of news for many of America’s young adults.    

Researchers from the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania surveyed 1,232 people age 18 and over between the dates of December 13, 2012 and December 23, 2012.  The study, known officially as “Stephen Colbert’s Civics Lesson”, sought to find out which sources of news had the best-educated audience when it comes to campaign finance. 

The study showed that viewers of the Colbert Report understood campaign finance more soundly than the average viewer of any other television show, listener of any radio program, or reader of any newspaper.

“It’s the first study actually showing that Colbert is doing a better job than other news sources at teaching people about campaign financing,” said Bruce W. Hardy, Ph.D., lead author of the study and a senior researcher at the Annenberg Public Policy Center. 

The study suggests that Colbert’s audience may be better educated on the subject of campaign finance for a number of reasons.  These include Colbert’s intent focus on the subject matter throughout the 2012 elections, his use of humor and his specific narrative.  For instance, Colbert demonstrated the concept of a super PAC thoroughly by creating one himself and having his audience contribute to it. 

According to the Annenberg Public Policy Center, “the show not only increased people’s perceptions that they knew more about political financing, but significantly increased their actual knowledge, and did so at a greater rate than other news sources.” 

With Colbert slated to take David Letterman’s spot as the host of the Late Show next year, the country could be losing one of its leading educators of campaign finance and civis in general.


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