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Study: Jon Stewart leaving ‘Daily Show’ helped Trump win presidency
It's no joke.
- A new study used Comedy Central ratings and political survey data to examine whether the departure of Jon Stewart from "The Daily Show" had a causal effect on the outcome of the 2016 presidential election.
- The researchers found that it had a 1.1 percent effect on voter turnout, an amount that could've proved decisive in such a narrow election.
- The researchers used causal language in the study, but cautioned that Stewart's departure was one of many factors that decided the election.
Jon Stewart was once asked to describe his importance as a political commentator on The Daily Show. He replied: "On a scale of zero to 10, I'd go with a zero, not very important."
That was dead wrong, according to a new study that suggests Stewart's 2015 departure from the left-leaning show caused not only a drop in ratings, but also a slight drop in voter turnout in the 2016 presidential election – enough to tip the scales in favor of President Donald Trump.
It sounds like a wild claim. But study authors Ethan Portera and Thomas J. Wood pointed to past research showing that many Americans who aren't politically engaged often consume news from comedy sources, in particular from "The Daily Show". Other research shows that audiences are more likely to view political figures and issues in a more favorable light when presented in a comedic context, rather than, say, on a network news show. So, considering Jon Stewart's replacement Trevor Noah has received lower ratings and fewer viewers, it stands to reason that some Americans were less inclined to get out and vote Democrat in 2016.
The researchers suggest Stewart's key influence over the nation was to mobilize voters, not necessarily to make liberal converts out of conservatives.
"'The Daily Show's' ratings decline was negatively associated with voter turnout — suggesting that Stewart's role in the election is understood in relationship to mobilization, rather than persuasion."
The study authors also examined Stephen Colbert's departure from his eponymous show in 2014, finding similar but weaker effects. To conduct their analysis, the researchers used data from the 2016 Cooperative Congressional Election Study (CCES) and extensive ratings data for The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. The Daily Show with Trevor Noah, The Colbert Report, The Nightly Show with Larry Wilmore, Key and Peele, South Park, and Inside Amy Schumer.
Using a 'difference in differences' statistical approach, the analysis incorporated socioeconomic controls – including educational attainment, racial composition, and income — and also controlled for the general decline of all Comedy Central shows during this period. The results showed that only The Daily Show seemed to have influenced voter behavior in the 2016 presidential election.
"By our estimate, the ratings decline at The Daily Show was associated with a 1.11 percentage point increase in Republican presidential vote share at the county level, significant by conventional standards," adding that the observations "cannot be explained away by broader trends in cable and Comedy Central."
Credit: Wood & Portera
It seems a small but influential share of Stewart's audience might've been a decisive factor in the election.
"... as previous studies have shown, the viewers Stewart and Colbert most affected were otherwise politically disengaged and uninformed," the researchers wrote. "As Zaller (2004) demonstrates, such voters are precisely the most likely voters to shift partisan allegiances between presidential elections. When the shows' ratings declined and those viewers went elsewhere, their politics likely changed as a result."
Although the study authors suggest that Jon Stewart's departure was causal in the outcome of the 2016 election, they do note that it wasn't the only factor.
"Stewart's departure and the decline in ratings data, we contend, was one among many factors that possibly contributed to the surprising election result of 2016," they wrote.
What about "The Colbert Report"?
Why did Colbert's Comedy Central show not seem to have the same effects as Stewart's?
One reason might be the peculiar mechanics of satire and parody. Audiences of The Colbert Report might have been able to enjoy the satire no matter their politics; Republicans might've been able to laugh at the tongue-in-cheek jokes delivered by Colbert's hard-right character, while Democrats might've laughed because they felt "in" on the joke. Here's how the study authors described it:
"While The Daily Show was unflappably sincere in its political and partisans commitments, The Colbert Report was entirely satirical," the authors wrote. "Decoding the humor and parsing out the political content of the latter likely required a great deal more political sophistication than the former. Not watching The Colbert Report may have depressed one's interest in politics generally; but not watching The Daily Show may have depressed one's interest in supporting the Democratic Party, and opposing the Republican Party, specifically."
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This storm rained electrons, shifted energy from the sun's rays to the magnetosphere, and went unnoticed for a long time.
- An international team of scientists has confirmed the existence of a "space hurricane" seven years ago.
- The storm formed in the magnetosphere above the North magnetic pole.
- The storm posed to risk to life on Earth, though it might have interfered with some electronics.
What do you call that kind of storm when it forms over the Arctic ocean?<iframe width="730" height="430" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/8GqnzBJkWcw" frameborder="0" allow="accelerometer; autoplay; clipboard-write; encrypted-media; gyroscope; picture-in-picture" allowfullscreen></iframe><p> Many objects in space, like Earth, the Sun, most of the planets, and even some large moons, have magnetic fields. The area around these objects which is affected by these fields is known as the magnetosphere.</p><p>For us Earthlings, the magnetosphere is what protects us from the most intense cosmic radiation and keeps the solar wind from affecting our atmosphere. When charged particles interact with it, we see the aurora. Its fluctuations lead to changes in what is known as "space weather," which can impact electronics. </p><p>This "space hurricane," as the scientists are calling it, was formed by the interactions between Earth's magnetosphere and the <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Interplanetary_magnetic_field" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">interplanetary magnetic field,</a> the part of the sun's magnetosphere that goes out into the solar system. It took on the familiar shape of a cyclone as it followed magnetic fields. For example, the study's authors note that the numerous arms traced out the "footprints of the reconnected magnetic field lines." It rotated counter-clockwise with a speed of nearly 7,000 feet per second. The eye, of course, was still and <a href="https://www.sciencealert.com/for-the-first-time-a-plasma-hurricane-has-been-detected-in-space" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">calm</a>.</p><p>The storm, which was invisible to the naked eye, rained electrons and shifted energy from space into the ionosphere. It seems as though such a thing can only form under calm situations when large amounts of energy are moving between the solar wind and the upper <a href="https://www.reading.ac.uk/news-and-events/releases/PR854520.aspx" target="_blank">atmosphere</a>. These conditions were modeled by the scientists using 3-D <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41467-021-21459-y#Sec10" target="_blank">imaging</a>.<br><br>Co-author Larry Lyons of UCLA explained the process of putting the data together to form the models to <a href="https://www.nbcnews.com/science/space/space-hurricane-rained-electrons-observed-first-time-rcna328" target="_blank">NBC</a>:<br><br>"We had various instruments measuring various things at different times, so it wasn't like we took a big picture and could see it. The really fun thing about this type of work is that we had to piece together bits of information and put together the whole picture."<br><br>He further mentioned that these findings were completely unexpected and that nobody that even theorized a thing like this could exist. <br></p><p>While this storm wasn't a threat to any life on Earth, a storm like this could have noticeable effects on space weather. This study suggests that this could have several effects, including "increased satellite drag, disturbances in High Frequency (HF) radio communications, and increased errors in over-the-horizon radar location, satellite navigation, and communication systems."</p><p>The authors <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41467-021-21459-y#Sec8" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">speculate</a> that these "space hurricanes" could also exist in the magnetospheres of other planets.</p><p>Lead author Professor Qing-He Zhang of Shandong University discussed how these findings will influence our understanding of the magnetosphere and its changes with <a href="https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2021-03/uor-sho030221.php" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">EurekaAlert</a>:</p><p>"This study suggests that there are still existing local intense geomagnetic disturbance and energy depositions which is comparable to that during super storms. This will update our understanding of the solar wind-magnetosphere-ionosphere coupling process under extremely quiet geomagnetic conditions."</p>
Research reveals a new evolutionary feature that separates humans from other primates.
- Researchers find a new feature of human evolution.
- Humans have evolved to use less water per day than other primates.
- The nose is one of the factors that allows humans to be water efficient.
A model of water turnover for humans and chimpanzees who have similar fat free mass and body water pools.
Credit: Current Biology
Being skeptical isn't just about being contrarian. It's about asking the right questions of ourselves and others to gain understanding.
- It's not always easy to tell the difference between objective truth and what we believe to be true. Separating facts from opinions, according to skeptic Michael Shermer, theoretical physicist Lawrence Krauss, and others, requires research, self-reflection, and time.
- Recognizing your own biases and those of others, avoiding echo chambers, actively seeking out opposing voices, and asking smart, testable questions are a few of the ways that skepticism can be a useful tool for learning and growth.
- As Derren Brown points out, being "skeptical of skepticism" can also lead to interesting revelations and teach us new things about ourselves and our psychology.