MAYBE OVER-THE-TOP IS TOO SUBTLE…. It never occurred to me that some viewers might think Stephen Colbert is actually a conservative blow-hard. But Jason Linkins highlights this study from Ohio State, where researchers found that the satirical quality of “The Colbert Report” was lost on a surprising number of conservatives.
This study investigated biased message processing of political satire in The Colbert Report and the influence of political ideology on perceptions of Stephen Colbert. Results indicate that political ideology influences biased processing of ambiguous political messages and source in late-night comedy. Using data from an experiment (N = 332), we found that individual-level political ideology significantly predicted perceptions of Colbert’s political ideology.
Additionally, there was no significant difference between the groups in thinking Colbert was funny, but conservatives were more likely to report that Colbert only pretends to be joking and genuinely meant what he said while liberals were more likely to report that Colbert used satire and was not serious when offering political statements. Conservatism also significantly predicted perceptions that Colbert disliked liberalism. [emphasis added]
Linkins added, “I think a lot of conservatives are going to pissed when they realize that Stephen Colbert’s performance at the 2006 White House Correspondents’ Dinner was not, in fact, an awkward and ineffective attempt to praise President George W. Bush, but actually a bitter and satiric criticism of his incompetence!”
I’m tempted to encourage Colbert to be slightly more over-the-top — so as to help confused conservative viewers who think he agrees with them — but I’m not sure if that’s possible.