Satire News, Civil Discourse and the Political-Media Complex

Robin Stryker, Professor of Sociology & Previous National Institute of Civil Discourse Director

This project was part of a broader initiative to define, make visible and secure external funding for a new interdisciplinary research field of civil discourse, civic and political engagement around the UA’s National Institute of Civil Discourse, where Robin Stryker (primary investigator) was the director at the time.

Integrating research streams in sociology, communication, political science and psychology, the project combined survey and focus group methods to investigate the nature and consequences of perceived political incivility – more generally – as well as viewers’ perceptions of meanings conveyed by John Stewart’s The Daily Show and Stephen Colbert’s Colbert Report.

The representative survey of UA undergraduates were asked several batteries of new questions to tap perceptions of the nature and implications of political incivility, as well as questions about their demographic background, political interest, knowledge, attitudes and behavior, and media consumption, including – but not restricted to – satire news. This research yielded several written products.

The first completed paper from the survey, “What is Political Incivility?”, was presented at meetings of the National Communication Association’s 100th Annual Convention in November 2014. The quantitative analysis of the nature of political incivility was authored by PI Stryker with two graduate students, Bethany Conway (Communication), and J. Taylor Danielson (Sociology). It won a best paper award from the NCA Section on Political Communication, an award given annually to the top four papers submitted in the field of political communication. The papers are presented together in a highly publicized and well attended “Top Papers in Political Communication” panel. It was published by Communication Monographs in July 2016.

A second paper based on quantitative analysis from the survey, “Who is More Tolerant of Political Incivility? The Role of Gender, Political Ideology and Media Use,” (Stryker, Danielson and Conway), was presented at 111th Annual Meeting of the American Political Science Association in 2015 and is currently under review by the Communication Research journal.

A third paper from the survey analyses is in the writing process, with the goal to have it submitted for journal review by the end of spring, 2017. Citation: Robin Stryker, Bethany Conway-Silva and J. Taylor Danielson. “Does Context Shape Perceptions of Political Incivility? Results from a Vignette Experiment.”

Dr. Stryker has also written a national survey modeled on the Confluencenter-funded UA survey and is contracting with the Kent State University Survey Research Center to field it later in spring 2017. Dr. Stryker also wrote and received a $50,000 grant from the Hewlett Foundation for research conferences produced by the National Institute of Civil Discourse – including a conference March 23-25, 2017 in Tucson.

Other associated outcomes include:

R. Stryker, “Political Incivility and Political Dysfunction in U.S. Electoral Politics.” Presentation at Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences (CASBS), Stanford University, November 2016.

R. Stryker, Invited Talk, “On Political Incivility and Polarization in US Politics.” AKD Induction Family and Friend Banquet, Kent State University, April 2016.

Last updated on March 16, 2017.