Measuring the Impact of Michael Moore's SICKO
Matthew C. Nisbet, Ph.D. is Associate Professor of Communication Studies, Public Policy, and Urban Affairs at Northeastern University. Nisbet studies the role of communication and advocacy in policymaking and public affairs, focusing on debates over over climate change, energy, and sustainability. Among awards and recognition, Nisbet has been a Visiting Shorenstein Fellow on Press, Politics, and Public Policy at Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government, a Health Policy Investigator at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and a Google Science Communication Fellow. In 2011, the editors at the journal Nature recommended Nisbet's research as “essential reading for anyone with a passing interest in the climate change debate,” and the New Republic highlighted his work as a “fascinating dissection of the shortcomings of climate activism."
As I have mentioned here before, one of the studies I am working on evaluates the impact of documentary film across audiences, news coverage, and policy contexts. I have written short introductions or columns on this topic in the past with a focus on Inconvenient Truth. While searching around for additional data, I ran across this survey report from Kaiser on the impact of Michael Moore's SICKO.
If the potential impact of Michael Moore's documentary "Sicko" were dependent solely on those who have actually seen the film, the result might be a passionate but narrow conversation among the 4% of adults who said they watched it in a new Kaiser Family Foundation poll.
But, with a big free media bounce reaching beyond the movie reviews to the news and talk shows, the new poll finds that almost half (46%) had seen the movie or heard or read something about it a little over a month after its national release. This is not much less than the share of adults (61%) who were aware of "An Inconvenient Truth," the documentary on climate change featuring former Vice President Al Gore released in May 2006.
Among those familiar with "Sicko," 45% said they had a discussion with friends, co-workers, or family about the U.S. health system as a result of the movie; 43% said they were more likely to think there is a need to reform the health system; 37% were more likely to think other countries have a better approach to health care; and 27% said they were paying more attention to the positions of presidential candidates on health care. About equal numbers of those aware of the movie thought it accurately represents problems in the U.S. health system (36%) versus overstating them (33%), and positive impressions of "Sicko" outweighed negative ones 48% to 33%.
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