In an effort to show themselves as “regular guys,” the 2000 presidential election found presidential aspirants commiserating with Oprah Winfrey, Rosie O'Donnell, Queen Latifah and Regis Philbin, trading one-liners with Jay Leno and David Letterman, discussing rap music with MTV's youthful viewers and even courting the kid (or perhaps parent) vote on Nickelodeon. This study is a preliminary assessment of the impact of entertainment-oriented talk show coverage of presidential politics, using the 2000 election as a case study. I consider why entertainment-oriented TV talk shows might choose to cover presidential politics, why candidates choose to appear on talk shows, and who is likely to be the primary audience for such coverage. This discussion yields a series of hypotheses concerning the effects of talk show coverage of presidential politics on public views of the candidates and the campaign. I test my hypotheses through a content analysis of campaign coverage by entertainment-oriented talk shows, traditional political talk shows, and national news campaign coverage, as well as through a series of statistical analyses employing the 2000 NES. I find that talk show coverage of presidential politics does indeed influence voter attitudes. In particular, net of partisan preferences and a variety of other demographic and political factors, voters who rely primarily on entertainment-oriented TV talk shows as a source of campaign information are more likely to find the opposition candidate “likeable,” as well as to cross party lines and vote for him, relative to their more politically aware counterparts who pay closer attention to traditional news outlets.
This article is available for download from JSTOR here.
You can download a zip archive containing the 2000 NES variable definitions and re-coding, as well as the content analysis data and coding form, from this article here.