When The Colbert Report ends its run on Comedy Central this December, the late night news world will not only be losing one of its most hilarious characters, but it’ll also be losing television’s most effective educator of politics and campaign finance. According to Deadline, a new study has found that viewers of Colbert’s super PAC coverage during the last presidential election season “were better informed about campaign financing and the role of money in politics than viewers of actual news channels and other, actual-news shows.”
Dubbed Stephen Colbert’s Civics Lesson, the study was conducted through phone interview data from 1,232 adults ages 18+ between December 13-23 in 2012 and found that not only did Colbert viewers have increased “perceptions” about their level of political financing knowledge, but the show “significantly increased their actual knowledge” at a higher rate than other news sources. “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 researcher Bruce W. Hardy, who led the study through the Annenberg Public Policy Center. “Consistently, we found that Colbert did better than every other news source we included in our model.”
Interestingly enough, a similar study by the same researchers was conducted in 2008 with a focus on The Daily Show and “found that Comedy Central late-night show to be less effective than traditional news media at informing viewers about the Supreme Court nominating process.” The APPC noted that this proves how different the two shows are, since Colbert “created a narrative in which he played an ‘activist role’” for his super PAC coverage. For more on the importance and impact of the Colbert Super PAC, check out our analysis from 2011.