Agenda-Setting With Satire: How Political Satire Increased TTIP’s Saliency on the Public, Media, and Political Agenda

Mark Boukes
  • Political Communication, September 2018, Taylor & Francis
  • DOI: 10.1080/10584609.2018.1498816

How Political Satire Increased TTIP’s Saliency on the Public, Media, and Political Agenda

What is it about?

Agenda-setting has mostly been investigated as the cognitive process set in motion by the salience of political issues in the traditional news media. The question, though, remained whether political entertainment shows—political satire, specifically—can also set the agenda. The current study investigates whether two episodes of Dutch satire show Zondag met Lubach (ZML) about the European Union-United States trade agreement Transatlantic Trade Investment and Partnership (TTIP) have triggered first-level agenda-setting effects. For that purpose, three studies have been conducted to investigate the three-step agenda-setting process (i.e., learning, understanding, acting) from saliency in satire to saliency on the public agenda, but also on the media and political agenda. Study 1: A two-wave panel survey shows that consumption of the satire show positively affected knowledge acquisition about TTIP, which is the first step in the cognitive process underlying agenda-setting. Study 2: A randomized experiment demonstrated that exposure to ZML increased the perceived understanding of TTIP, which subsequently had a positive impact on the saliency of TTIP on the public agenda. Study 3: Longitudinal time-series data provide evidence that the saliency of TTIP on the public agenda—short term—and on the political agenda—long term—were positively affected by the ZML satire episodes. The study, altogether, demonstrates satire’s ability to set the agenda of both the individual and aggregate level and emphasizes the persistent relevance of agenda-setting theory in today’s high-choice media environment.

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