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This article was downloaded by: [Columbia University] On: 07 October 2014, At: 14:26 Publisher: Routledge Informa Ltd Registered in England and Wales Registered Number: 1072954 Registered office: Mortimer House, 37-41 Mortimer Street, London W1T 3JH, UK Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media Publication details, including instructions for authors and subscription information: http://www.tandfonline.com/loi/hbem20 The Effect of Television Viewing on Adolescents' Civic Participation: Political Efficacy as a Mediating Mechanism a Lindsay H. Hoffman Ph.D. & Tiffany L. Thomson Ph.D. a Department of Communication , University of Delaware Published online: 12 Mar 2009. To cite this article: Lindsay H. Hoffman Ph.D. & Tiffany L. Thomson Ph.D. (2009) The Effect of Television Viewing on Adolescents' Civic Participation: Political Efficacy as a Mediating Mechanism, Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media, 53:1, 3-21, DOI: 10.1080/08838150802643415 To link to this article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/08838150802643415 PLEASE SCROLL DOWN FOR ARTICLE Taylor & Francis makes every effort to ensure the accuracy of all the information (the “Content”) contained in the publications on our platform. However, Taylor & Francis, our agents, and our licensors make no representations or warranties whatsoever as to the accuracy, completeness, or suitability for any purpose of the Content. Any opinions and views expressed in this publication are the opinions and views of the authors, and are not the views of or endorsed by Taylor & Francis. The accuracy of the Content should not be relied upon and should be independently verified with primary sources of information. Taylor and Francis shall not be liable for any losses, actions, claims, proceedings, demands, costs, expenses, damages, and other liabilities whatsoever or howsoever caused arising directly or indirectly in connection with, in relation to or arising out of the use of the Content. This article may be used for research, teaching, and pr; ivate study purposes. Any substantial or systematic reproduction, redistribution, reselling, loan, sub-licensing, systematic supply, or distribution in any form to anyone is expressly forbidden. Terms & Conditions of access and use can be found at http:// www.tandfonline.com/page/terms-and-conditions Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media/March 2009 The Effect of Television Viewing on Adolescents’ Civic Participation: Political Efficacy as a Mediating Mechanism Downloaded by [Columbia University] at 14:26 07 October 2014 Lindsay H. Hoffman and Tiffany L. Thomson Pundits, parents, and scholars express concern about youth attention to latenight political comedy shows, such as The Daily Show, suggesting that such viewing is deleterious for an active, efficacious citizenry. Yet as civic participation declines among adults, it appears to be growing among adolescents. This study assessed the effects of television viewing on high school students’ civic participation. Results demonstrate that viewing late-night TV and local TV news had a positive, significant effect on civic participation, and this relationship was mediated by political efficacy. Implications for the study of late-night TV and applications to research on political socialization are discussed. A democracy assumes that its citizens have motivation and agency to affect society through established political processes (Youniss & Yates, 1999). Social scientists in the last half-century have become increasingly interested in what motivates and socializes people into becoming active citizens of a democracy. Much of this interest stems from observations about the decline in key indicators of an active citizenry, including behaviors such as voting (Teixeira, 1987) and other forms of political participation (Putnam, 2000), as well as affective dimensions such as confidence in government (Cappella & Jamieson, 1996), and trust (Damico, Conway, & Damico, 2000). Meanwhile, numerous scholars of political socialization of youth attempt Lindsay H. Hoffman (Ph.D., The Ohio State University) is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Communication at University of Delaware. Her research interests include media effects, political communication, and public opinion. Tiffany L. Thomson (Ph.D., The Ohio State University). Her research interests include news use, political discussion, and political knowledge. This research was funded primarily by The Columbus Foundation through Kids Voting, Central Ohio. Supplementary funding was provided by the School of Communication and the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences at The Ohio State University. The authors would like to thank Suzanne Helmick of Kids Voting, Central Ohio and Dwight Groce, Keith Bossard, Saundra Brennan, and Susan Martin of the Columbus Public School District, as well as Dr. William P. Eveland, Jr. and Jessica Flanders for assistance in the gathering of these data. This report is a product solely of the authors; the funding sources and those who assisted in data gathering bear no responsibility for the contents of this manuscript. This article was submitted and accepted under the editorship of Donald G. Godfrey. © 2009 Broadcast Education Association DOI: 10.1080/08838150802643415 Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media 53(1), 2009, pp. 3–21 ISSN: 0883-8151 print/1550-6878 online 3 Downloaded by [Columbia University] at 14:26 07 October 2014 4 Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media/March 2009 to answer the same question as some of the same variables are declining among younger adults as well (Rahn & Transue, 1998). Contrasting reports suggest that youth are participating at increased rates (Lopez, 2004). This suggests an unclear outlook for the active citizenship of young Americans in the future, and encourages scholars to closely analyze those characteristics of youth associated with democratic citizenship. This study assesses youth attention to television news and late-night comedy shows as one such characteristic that could provide key insights into this area of research. Popular media and polling reports have emphasized the increased participation among youth in the last two presidential elections. Organizations such as the Corporation for National & Community Service, the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE) have reported that adolescents and college-age students are participating in volunteer and civic activities in increasing numbers. For instance, over 75% of high school seniors reported volunteering in 2001 compared to 62% in 1976 (Lopez, 2004). Importantly, such participation has been shown to influence activity at a later age; for example, 20% of high school sophomores reported volunteering in 1990, and of this same class, over twice that amount reported volunteering at age 20 (Lopez). Understanding that such participation might influence civic activity at a later age, it becomes of great consequence to understand the mechanisms that drive this activity among adolescents. The questions for mass communication researchers become, does media use play a role in predicting this civic participation? If so, how? Defining Political Socialization There has been great attention to political socialization in the mass communication literature, even though children must learn many facets of life in order to become socialized members of society. One reason for this focus is because scholars understand that democracy isn’t exactly a natural state of being; instead, it consists of habits and competencies that require skills that must be acquired (Barber, 1984; Parker, 1996). These skills are obtained (or, arguably, not obtained in many cases) through the primary socializing agents of school, family, and the media (Kelly & Donohew, 1999). Literature on political socialization proliferated in the 1950s and 1960s. Since then, however, many scholars claim that the conceptualization of this process was narrowly focused or even biased (McLeod, 2000; Youniss & Yates, 1999). Earlier definitions emphasized an internalization of the norms existing in the current political system (e.g., Sigel, 1965), yet recent research has demonstrated that socialization is not merely a ‘‘top-down transmission model’’ (McLeod, p. 46); rather the child serves as an active participant in his or her socialization (McDevitt, 2006; McDevitt & Chaffee, 2002). One of the main scholarly foci of political socialization is the development of citizenship or civic duty in young people (McLeod, 2000). As the more traditional Hoffman and Thomson/TV, ADOLESCENTS, AND PARTICIPATION 5 Downloaded by [Columbia University] at 14:26 07 October 2014 model of political socialization has transitioned into the contemporary perspective that a child is an active participant in his or her socialization, scholars have begun to think of citizenship as commitment to actions that benefit others and the common good (e.g., Sherrod, Flanagan, & Youniss, 2002). Media are considered to be an important socializing agent in this process. That is, they can instigate pluralistic communication, just as certain family communication patterns can (Chaffee & Yang, 1990). However, the role of media use in citizenship development among youth has not been fully explored, particularly as it relates to civic or political participation (McLeod, 2000; Sherrod et al., 2002). In fact, Chaffee and Kanihan (1997) remind readers that television and newspapers change rapidly, and that their roles in political socialization need to be continually reassessed. Adolescents and Political Socialization Through Media Because the majority of people are not personally involved in politics, most of what individuals know about the political environment comes via the mass media (Becker, McCombs, & McLeod, 1975). In this way, the political world comes to people as a ‘‘second-hand reality,’’ helping to form not only individuals’ first political cognitions, but changing them over time (Becker et al., 1975). Perhaps more importantly, even though political socialization begins in preschool years, understanding of abstract political issues is not likely to occur until adolescence, when young people are more cognitively developed (Austin & Pinkleton, 2001). Because adolescents are able to think more abstractly and less egocentrically, their potential for understanding politics and news programming is greatly increased over that of younger children. Chaffee, Jackson-Beeck, Durall, and Wilson (1977) concluded that mass media constitute the principal source of political information for young people. This influential study also found that newspapers and television are the dominant tools for learning political information, and that young people attribute considerable influence on their opinions to the media. Finally, these authors asserted that children do not necessarily adopt the public affairs media use of their parents. Media have become a more powerful agent of socialization as a result of a decline in the role of the family as a socializing agent (Arnett, 1995). This is particularly true for adolescents who seek independence and look for sources of socialization outside the family (Kelly & Donohew, 1999). Thus, understanding how adolescents use media becomes an important method for identifying the ways in which they are socialized into a culture. A typology of the most common media uses by adolescents cannot cover all media uses, but it provides some insight into the uses and gratifications sought by adolescents. Arnett (1995) suggested that adolescents use media for 1) entertainment; 2) identity formation; 3) high sensation; 4) coping; and 5) youth culture identification. One will notice that keeping up with news or public affairs does not make this list. Yet public affairs media use could be said to fulfill the socialization process Downloaded by [Columbia University] at 14:26 07 October 2014 6 Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media/March 2009 in which adolescents engage to prepare for future roles (Arnett, 1995; Rogers, 1985). The focus of the present study is television, because the programming on this medium has been identified as the predominant channel by which young people first encounter political information and public affairs news (Chaffee & Kanihan, 1997), although future work should also assess the comparative role of the Internet in socialization. Beyond traditional public affairs media use, scholars have become increasingly interested in late-night comedy television. Specifically, research has examined the audiences of these programs, how the programs compare to other types of television news, and what effects watching such shows might have. Although much of this research does not examine adolescents, studies do show that the general audience for late-night television is younger than for public affairs programs (e.g., Hollander, 2005; Young & Tisinger, 2006). Watching late-night comedy shows has been associated with a number of both positive and negative effects, such as attention to traditional news sources, political learning, candidate evaluations, political efficacy, and political cynicism. Young and Tisinger (2006) found that watching late-night comedy television is associated with other forms of news exposure, including local and national television news. These authors also found that an increase in perceived learning from late-night comedy television was associated with an increase in learning from other forms of television news. However, Hollander (2005) found that there is a curvilinear effect of viewing late-night television on political learning, such that those who watch a moderate amount tend to recall the most campaign information, while those who watched either low or high amounts tend to recall less. In another study, Young (2004) found that late-night comedy viewing did not have a main effect on attitudes, but the impact of these ratings varied by level of political knowledge. According to Baumgartner and Morris (2006), exposure to The Daily Show with Jon Stewart was associated with decreased candidate evaluations, decreased external political efficacy, and increased cynicism with the news media. Hollander (2005), who assessed solely political learning as an outcome of viewing such programming, concluded that ‘‘young people are capable of gleaning at least modest amounts of campaign information from such content, but how competent it leaves them to participate in a meaningful manner remains an open question’’ (p. 412). This study tests whether attention to various types of televised content influences perceived competence—or efficacy—and actual participation in politics and the community. Civic Participation Participation in extracurricular activities as an adolescent has been found to influence political participation later in the life cycle (McFarland & Thomas, 2006; Smith, Denton, Faris & Regnerus, 2002). Current polls show that adolescents and college-age students are participating in volunteer and civic activities at an increased Downloaded by [Columbia University] at 14:26 07 October 2014 Hoffman and Thomson/TV, ADOLESCENTS, AND PARTICIPATION 7 rate compared with their same age group in previous generations (Corporation for National & Community Service, 2006). Volunteer rates among youth aged 16–24 has increased steadily over the last three years, from 21.9% to 24.4% (Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2005). The report from the Corporation for National & Community Service found that high school students who participated in school-based service were more likely to participate in other volunteering activities, and to feel that they can make a difference in their communities. But students do not participate solely through school; some participate through religious groups, civic organizations, or neighborhood groups. Although many studies have established the link between media use and political participation (e.g., Becker, Sobawale, & Casey, 1979; Lee, 2005; Moy, McCluskey, McCoy, & Spratt, 2004; Ostroff & Sandell, 1989), it is important to acknowledge that with adolescents, true ‘‘political’’ participation is not necessarily a feasible option because of their age. Researchers must consider comparable activities that have been shown to lead to participation later in life, such as volunteering for a youth group or religious organization, participating in student government or a debate club, or volunteering for a neighborhood or school program (McFarland & Thomas, 2006; Smith et al., 2002). These extracurricular activities ‘‘play an important role as a socializer, developing in young people the norms, attitudes, and skills conducive to later adult political and civic participation’’ (Smith, 1999). This study will examine whether a relationship exists between certain types of television use—namely, national TV news viewing, local TV news viewing, and late-night comedy TV viewing—and civic participation in youth-applicable extracurricular activities. Assessing Mechanisms of Media Effects Although these studies have revealed the positive effects of adolescent civic participation—such as their effect on adult political and civic behavior—it is still essential to uncover the mechanisms by which these effects occur. Frisco, Muller, and Dodson (2004) concluded that, although certain participatory activities among adolescents do indeed foster moral and civic responsibility, ‘‘future research should further explore the mechanisms behind relationships : : : such as an organization’s ability to foster social capital, citizenship, and/or self-efficacy’’ (p. 673). For communication scholars, it becomes particularly relevant to unravel the mechanisms by which the ‘‘organization’’—or socializing agent—of media might encourage or diminish such civic activity, and how those effects occur. McLeod and Reeves (1980), among other communication scholars, have called for more research aimed at uncovering the mechanisms of media effects. That is, how or by what means do media effects occur? Methods employed in assessing such means are often moderation or mediation—that is, variables that interact with or come between the effect of one variable on another. Several media-effects studies have followed this line of research, such as Shah, Cho, Eveland, and Kwak (2005), who Downloaded by [Columbia University] at 14:26 07 October 2014 8 Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media/March 2009 concluded that informational media use fostered interpersonal political discussion, which in turn contributed to increased civic participation. Given that both media-use patterns and civic participation in youth tend to influence later adult behaviors (McFarland & Thomas, 2006; Smith et al., 2002; St. Peters, Fitch, Huston, Wright & Eakins, 1991), it is important to discover if media use negatively influences civic participation among youth as it has been argued to do in adults (Putnam, 2000). That is, does this relationship begin when adolescents are learning about politics and government, or does it only settle in during adulthood? Moreover, as Moy et al. (2004) and others have argued, it is not simply the time spent with a medium that accounts for media effects. Rather, the content attended to provides greater insight into the relationship. Baumgartner and Morris (2006) classify late-night comedies as ‘‘soft’’ news, while traditional newscasts can be considered ‘‘hard news.’’ The former is often classified as emotional and immediate, while the latter consists of ‘‘what an informed person in society should know,’’ (Bennett, 2007, p. 21). Although Graber (2001) argues that traditional television news is becoming more ‘‘soft’’ in its focus, we follow the existing precedent and categorize national and local TV news as traditional hard news, and late-night comedy programming as soft news. A recent report from the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press (2007) shows evidence that the audiences of these programs vary somewhat demographically. Late-night comedy audiences are more likely to be male (54% of viewers), and 31% are college graduates, while 26% are aged 18–29. More women and fewer younger people tend to be the audiences for national and local TV news. Specifically, while 26% of these viewers are college graduates, only 15% and 18%, respectively, are between 18 and 29 years old; both types of hard news programming have between 2 and 5% more female than male viewers. The way people process information in these types of programs also differs. For instance, Young (2004) argues that humor requires more active processing. Nabi, Moyer-Guse, and Byrne (2007) corroborated this claim in their finding that humor in messages motivated central processing. If such information is processed centrally, then viewers may be able to recall and recognize political information from those programs more readily. Late-night shows like The Daily Show have been found to air the same amount of substance and actually contain a larger proportion of campaign coverage than TV news (Fox, Koloen, & Sahin, 2007). It is possible that the amount of time given to politics, combined with the inclusion of humor, on these programs gives young viewers feelings of competence about their understanding of politics. Traditional or ‘‘hard’’ news can be argued to have similar effects. Graber’s (2001) extensive work on the role of audiovisual content in news programming suggests that those stories that generate strong emotions are more likely to be embedded in long-term memory and retained even when they are not regularly rehearsed. Because hard news often follows guidelines for inclusion of dramatic and personal imagery (Bennett, 2007), one could argue that hard news could also provide viewers with increased efficacy about their capacity for political understanding. Downloaded by [Columbia University] at 14:26 07 October 2014 Hoffman and Thomson/TV, ADOLESCENTS, AND PARTICIPATION 9 However, a further distinction between national and local TV news might also be made. The format of these programs tends to differ in the magnitude of arousing content, with local news containing more sensational stories than national network news (Grabe, Zhou, & Barnett, 2001). This format difference has been found to influence information processing. For instance research has demonstrated that arousing news content increases attention, interest, and recall (e.g., Lang, Newhagen, & Reeves, 1996). On the other hand, such content can decrease credibility and perceived informativeness that audiences lend to the programming (Grabe, Lang, & Zhao, 2003). In the political arena, the effects of viewing different types of content are not exactly clear. Perhaps the most debated of these effects is whether ‘‘soft’’ news aids political knowledge gain or not. Although several studies in the 1990s found that soft news did not significantly predict knowledge (e.g., Hollander, 1995; McLeod et al., 1996), recent research suggests that such programming can at least positively influence recognition of campaign information (Hollander, 2005) and add to incidental learning among politically inactive individuals (e.g., Baum, 2003). Interestingly, although causal claims cannot be made, the Pew Research Center (2007) results reveal that audiences of late-night comedy shows are consistently in the highest-knowledge group, along with newspaper web sites. Young (2004) also found that late-night TV viewers are more likely to view other types of news content, which might explain why they tend to be in the high-knowledge group. The present study aims to uncover the mechanisms by which certain activities— particularly, the use of different media programming—promote civic participation among adolescents. Two such mechanisms, as outlined in recent research (Baumgartner & Morris, 2006) are political efficacy and political cynicism. Political Efficacy and Cynicism Political efficacy has been defined broadly as ‘‘the belief that one has the skills to influence the political system’’ (Zimmerman, 1989, p. 554). The two dimensions of this concept are internal political efficacy—which focuses primarily on the role that an individual plays in a democracy—and external political efficacy—which is associated more with beliefs about one’s government and its competence to be responsive and effective (Niemi, Craig, & Mattei, 1991; Zimmerman, 1989). Relevant to the present research, those high on internal efficacy display a belief that they are competent enough to participate in political activities (Niemi et al., 1991; Zimmerman, 1989). The difference between these two dimensions is simply one of self-perception (internal) versus perceptions of one’s environment (external). Among youth, there is evidence that viewing certain television shows can either increase or decrease political efficacy. For example, Baumgartner and Morris (2006) found that viewing the late-night comedy, The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, had a negative effect on young people’s perceptions of political candidates and Downloaded by [Columbia University] at 14:26 07 October 2014 10 Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media/March 2009 decreased their feelings of external efficacy. Yet they called for further research on the behavioral effects of such late-night TV shows, because viewing such shows has also been shown to actually increase internal efficacy—the confidence in one’s own competence to understand and participate in politics (adapted from Niemi et al., 1991). Thus, although Baumgartner and Morris’s subjects may have felt less external efficacy—operationalized as distrust in government institutions—from viewing The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, they seem to have felt more competent in their ability to do something about it. Political cynicism reflects low external efficacy (Baumgartner & Morris, 2006; Cappella & Jamieson, 1996), yet it differs in its specificity to feelings of trust in politicians and government. External political efficacy, on the other hand, focuses on an environmental evaluation of competence. Baumgartner and Morris operationalized political cynicism as a single survey item that measured ‘‘faith’’ in the U.S. electoral system. However, cynicism is a multifaceted—and often disagreed upon—concept that cannot be reduced to one component. In the literature, political cynicism is often defined in terms of its opposition to efficacy (e.g., Craig, Niemi, & Silver, 1990; Niemi et al., 1991), and trust (Mishler & Rose, 2001). Here, cynicism is defined as the belief that politicians and the government do not work in the best interests of citizens and cannot be trusted. The present study’s hypotheses build upon the suggestions for future research in Baumgartner and Morris (2006) by adding a measure of internal political efficacy and a more robust measure of political cynicism. Although there has been some discussion of the relationship between efficacy and viewing late-night programs, researchers have not vigorously explored the effects of national and local TV news use on efficacy or cynicism. The literature shows that national TV news use has positive effects on efficacy (Delli Carpini, 2004; Kenski & Stroud, 2006), and local TV news use has moderately positive effects on efficacy (McLeod, Scheufele, & Moy, 1999). Although the majority of this research employs adult samples, we hypothesize that these programs should also have positive effects on adolescent efficacy (and, as such, negative effects on cynicism). Because television is the predominant channel by which young people first encounter political information (Chaffee & Kanihan, 1997), these hypotheses focus solely on television programming. Mediating relationships between three types of media use as the independent variable, efficacy and cynicism as the mediating variables, and civic participation as the outcome variable are predicted. H1 : Political efficacy will be a positive mediator between (a) late-night TV viewing, (b) national TV news viewing, and (c) local TV news viewing and civic participation. H2 : Political cynicism will be a negative mediator between (a) late-night TV viewing, (b) national TV news viewing, and (c) local TV news viewing and civic participation. Hoffman and Thomson/TV, ADOLESCENTS, AND PARTICIPATION 11 Method Procedure Downloaded by [Columbia University] at 14:26 07 October 2014 A series of paper-and-pencil surveys were distributed to social studies departments in each of 18 public high schools in an urban Midwestern school district. The response rate from teachers was approximately 50%. Student data collection took place in two waves: a survey distributed in their social studies class, and a follow-up survey mailed to their homes. Obtaining Parental Consent The first step in obtaining child survey data is obtaining consent from their parents. This is seen as an obstacle by many researchers because response rates can be very low, as they are in the present study. Certain methods can greatly increase both the response rates and the consent rates among parents, including some incentive for parents (Thompson, 1984), so we employed a lotterytype incentive for participation.1 Although 6,238 consent forms were mailed to parents, only 517 were returned. Of the total sample, the response rate was 201/6,238, or 3.2%. However, this small response rate is a function of the parental permission required to survey the students. Among the parents who gave permission (8.2% of the original sample), the response rate among students was 39%. Sample A total of 201 students completed the survey. Although this response rate is disappointingly small, the sample does not appear to be drastically different from the school district’s student population. Of these students, there was at least one student represented from all but 3 of the 18 schools. Nearly 50% of the student sample was female, with an average age of 16 years, and students reported a B average in their grades.2 Of all students responding, 54.8% reported being Caucasian and 36% reported being African American (with other categories selected by no more than 4.8% of respondents). Although our sample nearly exactly represents the data provided by the school district in terms of gender, the data on race revealed the opposite balance; 62.4% of students in all grades were African American, while 30.6% were White during the year of our data collection (Columbus Public Schools, 2005). However, an independent samples t test revealed that there were no significant differences in either the independent or dependent variables between Blacks and Whites. 12 Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media/March 2009 Measurement Downloaded by [Columbia University] at 14:26 07 October 2014 Independent Variables. Respondents were asked three separate questions to gauge their TV viewing habits. Late-night comedy TV viewing was measured by asking respondents to indicate on a 0–7 scale the number of days per week they watched late-night comedy shows. Examples of ‘‘The Tonight Show or The Daily Show with Jon Stewart’’ were provided so that respondents understood what was meant by ‘‘late-night comedy shows.’’ Local and national TV news viewing were each measured on the same 0–7 scale. Respondents reported the highest levels of local news viewing (M D 4.42 days, SD D 2.02), followed by national news (M D 2.68 days, SD D 2.26) and late-night comedy (M D 1.93 days, SD D 2.35). Mediating Variables. Political efficacy (specifically ‘‘internal’’ political efficacy) and political cynicism were hypothesized to mediate the relationship between television viewing and civic participation. In order to assess political efficacy, respondents were asked to rate the degree to which they had confidence in being able to meaningfully participate in politics. This was measured by three items that were rated on a scale of 1 (strongly disagree) to 5 (strongly agree): ‘‘I consider myself well qualified to participate in politics when I turn 18’’ (M D 4.13, SD D .85), ‘‘I think that I am better informed about politics than most people my age’’ (M D 3.07, SD D 1.07), and ‘‘I feel I have a pretty good understanding of the important political issues facing our country’’ (M D 3.40, SD D .98). The scale was reliable, Cronbach’s ˛ D .70 (M D 3.53, SD D .77). Political cynicism was measured as respondents’ ratings on each of three items on a scale of 1 (strongly disagree) to 5 (strongly agree): ‘‘Elected officials almost never keep campaign promises’’ (M D 3.42, SD D .91), ‘‘Politicians will say almost anything to get elected’’ (M D 3.87, SD D .94), and ‘‘The government wastes a lot of the taxpayer’s money’’ (M D 3.74, SD D .95). Items were combined into a scale of political cynicism, Cronbach’s ˛ D .66 (M D 3.68, SD D .73). Dependent Variable. In order to assess civic participation, respondents were presented with a list of civic activities in which adolescents might participate. This has been defined elsewhere as ‘‘extracurricular participation’’ (Smith, 1999), however, the measure employed here excludes activities like participating in athletics, arts, or hobby groups. Both school and non-school activities were included, because both have been shown to influence adult political participation (Frisco et al., 2004). The measures here were based in part on those used in Frisco et al., but participation in student government or debate was added to the list, because this activity tends to predict civic participation better than other extracurricular activities (Glanville, 1999). Also included were religious volunteer activities, because they are often associated with participation in other civic activities (Smith et al., 2002). Respondents were asked to indicate which of the following activities they had participated in since the beginning of the current school year (1 D yes, 0 D no): ‘‘participated in student government or debate club’’ (M D .10, SD D .30), ‘‘was Hoffman and Thomson/TV, ADOLESCENTS, AND PARTICIPATION 13 Downloaded by [Columbia University] at 14:26 07 October 2014 involved in any youth organizations (sports leagues, scouts, Boys/Girls Club)’’ (M D .69, SD D .46), ‘‘volunteered for your place of worship’’ (M D .40, SD D .49), ‘‘volunteered for school or youth programs’’ (M D .59, SD D .49), or ‘‘volunteered for any neighborhood or civic group’’ (M D .23, SD D .42). The responses were summed to create an additive measure of civic participation. Of the 5 activities, students reported participating in an average of 2 (SD D 1.30). Control Variables. Ideology was entered into the analyses as a control variable, because identification with a certain ideology tends to be related to participation, at least in adult samples (Abramson & Aldrich, 1982; Gershtenson, 2002). Respondents reported a mean ideology of 3.77 (SD D 1.44) with 1 as very liberal, and 7 as very conservative. This measure was folded in half to represent ideological extremity, with ‘‘somewhat conservative, somewhat liberal’’ and ‘‘moderate’’ in one category, and ‘‘very liberal, very conservative, liberal,’’ and ‘‘conservative’’ in another category. Grade in school was also entered as a control variable, since it is possible that the amount of television viewing, especially of late-night programming, might vary as a function of grade level. The sample contained 36.9% freshman, 30% sophomores, 9.7% juniors, and 15.2% seniors.3 Analyses Testing for Nonlinearity. Several studies have found that the relationship between media use and civic participation is nonlinear, such that the variables are positively associated at low levels of use, but negatively related as use increases (Hollander, 2005; Pasek, Kenski, Romer, & Jamieson, 2006). This is particularly true for television use. For this reason, a test for nonlinearity was employed between the three television use variables and civic participation using the nominalization test for nonlinearity. The test was nonsignificant for both national TV news viewing and latenight TV viewing, so all further tests treat the relationships between these variables and civic participation as linear. The relationship between local TV news use and civic participation, however, was nonlinear and marginally significant (F-change from linear to nonlinear model D 1.86, p < .10). This finding was further explored by conducting hierarchical polynomial regression to test whether a quadratic model fits better than a linear model, and found that the quadratic model did not fit better than the linear model (F-change D .366, p D .546), so all media use variables and their relationships with civic participation were treated as linear. Mediation Analyses. An important direction for scientific research is assessing how and by what means an independent variable influences another variable through some mediating variable(s) (Preacher & Hayes, 2008). The hypotheses suggest that certain types of media use will influence civic participation by means of individual political efficacy and cynicism. One way of testing these relationships is through Downloaded by [Columbia University] at 14:26 07 October 2014 14 Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media/March 2009 mediation analyses. Barron and Kenny (1986) outlined a causal-steps approach to detecting mediation. However, others have criticized this approach because it requires running several regression analyses, can be inconsistent, and often is not powerful enough to detect indirect effects (Preacher & Hayes). The Sobel test examines mediation more directly by computing the product of the direct effect from some independent variable to its mediator, and from that mediator to the dependent variable, which is then compared to the normal-theory standard error. But the distribution is often skewed, so this test is also not ideal. Because Preacher and Hayes and others have suggested that the bootstrapping technique accounts for some of these limitations, this was the method employed. Bootstrapping is a nonparametric resampling procedure that accounts for the skewed distribution that occurs in the Sobel test. It is also well-suited for testing hypotheses about mediation given the nonnormal nature of the sampling distribution of an indirect effect (Preacher & Hayes). Results Hypothesis 1a proposed that political efficacy would positively mediate the relationship between late-night TV viewing and civic participation. Using the bootstrapping macro for estimating indirect effects in SPSS,4 results showed that the point estimate for the total indirect effect of late-night TV viewing on civic participation with political efficacy as a mediator was .0247 (se D .0128).5 In order to test the significance of this mediator, one examines the 95% confidence interval and in this case, it does not contain zero (.0034, .0574), therefore political efficacy is a significant mediator between late-night TV viewing and civic participation. As presented in Table 1, this relationship persisted even when political ideology and grade in school were added into the model as controls, such that the 95% confidence interval remained significant for political efficacy. The results suggest Table 1 Mediation of Three Types of TV Viewing on Civic Participation Through Political Efficacy, Controlling for Political Ideology and Grade in School Product of Coefficients Late-Night TV a National TV Newsb Local TV Newsb Point Estimate SE .0247 .0199 .0233 .0137 .0145 .0131 Bootstrapping 95% CI .0038, .0601 .0053, .0520 .0035, .0571 Note. a sample size D 187; b sample size D 188. Confidence intervals are bias-corrected and accelerated. 1,000 bootstrap samples. Hoffman and Thomson/TV, ADOLESCENTS, AND PARTICIPATION 15 Table 2 Mediation of Three Types of TV Viewing on Civic Participation Through Cynicism, Controlling for Political Ideology and Grade in School Product of Coefficients Downloaded by [Columbia University] at 14:26 07 October 2014 Late-Night TV a National TV Newsb Local TV Newsb Point Estimate SE .0010 .0007 .0005 .0039 .0037 .0039 Bootstrapping 95% CI .0040, .0134 .0041, .0154 .0048, .0136 Note. a sample size D 187; b sample size D 188. Confidence intervals are bias-corrected and accelerated. 1,000 bootstrap samples. that Hypothesis 1a was supported and political efficacy mediates the relationship between late-night TV viewing and civic participation. Hypotheses 1b and 1c predicted that efficacy would also mediate the relationship between national and local TV news viewing and civic participation. The relationship was not significant for national TV news use, with a point estimate for the indirect effect of .0214 (se D .0132, CI: .002, .0529). Hypothesis 1b was not supported. The indirect effect was significant, however, for local news (.0239, se D .0135, CI: .0031, .0553), with an adjusted R2 D .032 [F(3, 194) D 4.20, p D .05]. This relationship persisted when ideology and grade in school were entered as a control (see Table 1). Hypothesis 1c was supported. Hypotheses 2a, 2b, and 2c predicted that cynicism would negatively mediate the relationship between these three types of TV viewing and civic participation. Bivariate correlations were not significant for any of the types of television viewing and political cynicism. Using the same methods described above for Hypotheses 1a, 1b, and 1c, results showed that there was no significant relationship between any of the three types of TV viewing and civic participation with cynicism as a mediating variable (see Table 2). Discussion In an effort to extend the literature on political socialization, the research presented here examined the influence of various forms of media use on civic participation, utilizing a sample of urban high school students. The study answered the call of previous research that stressed the importance of assessing the behavioral, as well as attitudinal, effects of TV viewing on adolescents. This research posited that political efficacy would positively mediate the relationship between TV viewing and civic participation, while political cynicism would negatively mediate this relationship. Internal political efficacy did indeed mediate Downloaded by [Columbia University] at 14:26 07 October 2014 16 Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media/March 2009 the relationship between late-night TV comedy viewing and civic participation, as well as local TV news viewing and civic participation. However, cynicism was neither significantly correlated with any of the types of television viewing, nor did it mediate the relationship between such viewing and civic participation. This counters the findings from Baumgartner and Morris (2006), who found that not only were cynicism and late-night TV viewing (in particular, The Daily Show with Jon Stewart) related, but viewing this show predicted political cynicism. They called for further analyses to test this effect on participation, and the findings of the present study indicate that not only is this type of TV viewing unassociated with cynicism, but cynicism does not mediate the effect of such viewing on civic participation. Thus, the results demonstrate that viewing both traditional forms of news (local news) and nontraditional sources of political information on television (late-night comedy) increases adolescents’ internal political efficacy, which in turn positively predicts their civic participation. Limitations While these results are stimulating, several limitations should be acknowledged. First, although 517 parents signed consent forms for their children to participate in the study, only 201 students actually filled out the surveys. A larger sample of students would provide a stronger test of the hypotheses presented here. As presented here, the results provide motivation for researchers to further examine the relationship between especially late-night TV viewing and civic participation by examining mediating factors, but the authors acknowledge that the results are limited to the geographic area in which the study was conducted. In addition, issues of self-selection into the sample also might have biased results to some extent. Second, measures of television viewing and of civic participation might be improved in future studies. For instance, respondents were asked to indicate how many days of the last week they watched certain types of television programming; the civic participation measure, however, asked about participation in activities since the beginning of the school year. It is often recommended to ask about difficultto-remember behaviors in terms of some recent time period in order to aid recall (e.g., Tourangeau, Rips, & Rasinski, 2000). However, the mismatch between the time periods in this survey might have been problematic for respondents, and the wording about viewing in the past week might also introduce some error into the results. Moreover, TV shows such as The Daily Show with Jon Stewart or The Tonight Show do not air seven days a week as national and local TV news regularly do. The collapsed one-item measure of late-night comedy programming might also be masking differential effects between types of late-night content. Future research should parse out these programs into different survey items. Because this survey was administered in the early months of the school year, it is also possible that students might not yet have participated in civic activities. Hoffman and Thomson/TV, ADOLESCENTS, AND PARTICIPATION 17 Thus, the results presented here are conservative tests of the hypotheses. Future research might consider administering such a survey later in the year to account for such participation. It should also be noted that the coefficients were relatively weak, albeit significant. Finally, because this research is not longitudinal, causal inferences cannot be made. Future research should continue to assess these relationships, hopefully with a larger, longitudinal sample. Downloaded by [Columbia University] at 14:26 07 October 2014 Implications for Future Research These results beg the question: Why did political efficacy mediate the relationship between certain television programming and civic participation, but cynicism did not? Baumgartner and Morris (2006) found that late-night comedy programs, like The Daily Show, increased cynicism among youth in their sample, but they also found an increase in internal efficacy. In the present study, internal efficacy—and not cynicism—was significantly predicted by late-night television comedy as well as local news viewing among adolescents. Yet this study took it a step further by assessing the behavioral outcomes of such viewing. It was found that efficacy was a significant mediator between late-night comedy and local news viewing and civic participation. This is true even though cynicism was relatively higher among respondents in this sample (M D 3.68, SD D .73) than efficacy (M D 3.53, SD D .77). Although these patterns generally reflect what was found in the Baumgartner and Morris study, they also suggest that the outlook is perhaps not as grim as these authors suggested. Not only did late-night television comedy and local news programming encourage feelings of political efficacy, they indirectly influenced adolescents’ patterns of civic participation. An interpretation of this is that such programming empowers adolescents, even if at the same time it gives them negative feelings toward government and politics. The finding regarding late-night comedy programs is perhaps the most intriguing in these analyses. One interpretation for why such programming positively predicted efficacy, which in turn predicted civic participation, is that the format of these shows differs greatly from news. For those citizens new to political and civic processes— such as high school students—programming that appeals to adolescents’ desire for certain features, such as humor, might be better received. Research in health communication has found that humor increases liking and perceived attractiveness of alcohol advertisements among both children and adolescents (Chen, Grube, Bersamin, Waiters, & Keefe, 2005; Waiters, Treno, & Grube, 2001). Although research in political communication has not systematically examined the differing effects of humor versus hard news on attitudinal or behavioral outcomes of youth,6 these results suggest this might be a fruitful area for future research. In addition to the inclusion of humor, late-night TV shows like The Daily Show have been found to show an equivalent—if not greater—proportion of campaign coverage than TV news (Fox et al., 2007). On average, the stories devoted to the 2004 presidential campaign tended to be longer on The Daily Show with Jon Downloaded by [Columbia University] at 14:26 07 October 2014 18 Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media/March 2009 Stewart than on network news. Might it be possible that the depth given to certain topics on such programs gives young viewers feelings of competence about their understanding of politics? Future research should continue to assess the differences in both content and format of such programming to determine how late-night comedy programs and news generate different effects, particularly among youth. Overall, these results suggest that efficacy does indeed mediate the relationship between certain types of television viewing and civic participation among adolescents, providing an initial answer to the question, how or by what means do media effects occur? At least for the youth in this sample, the effects of television viewing on civic participation occur by means of political efficacy. This counters previous research and lay concerns that some programming, such as late-night comedy shows, adversely affect youth by discouraging participation in a democracy. Understanding the patterns of such behaviors at a young age is crucial, given that civically active youth become civically active adults. Since democracy is founded on the idea of participation among the citizenry, it is important to continue to assess what makes individuals participate more or less in this system. This study echoes previous work which concluded that the media are an important socializing agent for youth into a political world. How and what types of programming produce these effects is a fruitful, and fundamental avenue for continued research. 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