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How Do Political Satire Programs Contribute to Viewers’ Interest in Politics?

Political satire programs like The Daily Show in the U.S. and the heute-show in Germany have become extremely popular in recent years. This study focuses on the question how such programs can elicit interest in politics among its viewers – an effect which previous research has neglected so far. Theoretically, the study basically relied on the emotion-attribution theory of interest (Silvia, 2006), which explains individuals’ development of interest from an emotion-psychological perspective. According to this approach, the more complex and the less familiar individuals rate something (novelty-complexity appraisal), and the more they can understand it (coping potential appraisal), the more interesting they will find it. The results of a 2 x 3 between-subject online (quasi-)experiment (N = 303) supported the basic assumptions of the emotion-attribution theory, while simultaneously revealing further insights about supporting preconditions on the recipients’ as well as on the programs’ sides. Furthermore, the findings suggest that the entertainment value of political satire programs effectively contributes to viewers’ development of interest in a political issue, both short-term and long-term. Altogether, the study shows that political satire programs can be a powerful means of eliciting interest in politics among its viewers. Besides, it provides a useful and profound theoretical background for the previously under-theorized concept of political interest (cf. Prior, 2010).