Thursday, October 18, 2007

Do South Carolina Primary Voters Live in Colbert Nation?

With Stephen Colbert officially announcing that he will run in both parties' South Carolina primaries, it is time to consider whether his run will produce anything more than just laughs.

If we assume that the Colbert constituency is roughly equivalent to his regular viewers, then we may be able to get a little insight into what this group is like using a recent Pew report.

In this survey, 16% of respondents reported that they regulalry watch "...shows like the Colbert Report or The Daily Show with Jon Stewart." Interestingly, 31% of this group has a college degree and one-in-four is under the age of 30. Thus, Colbert/Daily Show watchers appear to have slightly more formal education than the population and they are significantly younger. They also tend to be much more politically informed than American citizens more generally. Pew asked respondents 23 questions about politics and while only about one-third of Americans got at least 15 of those questions right, more than half of the Colbert/Daily Show audience scored that highly.

So, Colbert's potential constituency is younger citizens with high levels of political knowledge (his audience is also slightly more male than the population). On one hand, we know that younger Americans are much less likely to vote than their older counterparts. This pattern is even more pronounced in primary elections. On the other hand, high levels of political knowledge are often associated with higher levels of political activity, including an increased propensity to vote. Perhaps more important is the fact that citizens who know more about politics tend to feel more strongly about it as well. This leads to perhaps the biggest hurdle that Colbert faces in trying to pick up South Carolina delegates for either (or both) parties' conventions: will his viewers, who likely care more about politics than others, really be willing to cast their ballots for a candidate whose candidacy is largely a joke?

1 comment:

Jen Singleterry said...

Whether or not Colbert's viewers actually end up voting for him, it will be interesting to see the turnout data for that age group in the primary. Maybe stunts like this are the way to mobilize voters of my generation...