Date of Award

5-4-2021

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Political Science

First Advisor

Lakeyta Bonnette-Bailey

Second Advisor

Sarah Allen Gershon

Third Advisor

Judd Thornton

Fourth Advisor

Anthony Lemieux

Abstract

In the past two decades, media consumption has changed not only in terms of breadth and amount, but also in terms of availability and accessibility. Shows that once could only be viewed at their scheduled time on their scheduled network may now be streamed across several platforms at almost any time. Further, audiences have begun to connect with characters beyond the shows and films they inhabit, building websites, following related social media pages, recording podcasts and more to continue and expand these parasocial relationships. The social scientific community has only begun to scratch the surface of how these changes affect audience members and society at large—particularly regarding the political impact of entertainment media. Through focus groups, a survey experiment, media content analysis, and a laboratory experiment, I explore the impact of entertainment television media on political attitudes and social perceptions within the context of contemporary media consumption patterns. In particular, I examine the efficacy of narrative persuasion and mediated intergroup contact within the context of single exposure, accumulated exposure to outgroup members, and binge watching. I find that mediated intergroup contact appears to have a much stronger impact on audience members than narrative persuasion, regardless of exposure amount. I also find that binge watching episodic shows—watching multiple episodes back-to-back in one sitting—leads to different media effects on political attitudes and social perceptions in viewers than watching the same episodes in the traditional weekly format. Overall, my findings suggest that contemporary consumption patterns of entertainment media render it less influential in terms of narrative persuasion of political attitudes, but the regular consumption of entertainment media may still have lasting effects from mediated intergroup contact regardless of whether the contact is positive or negative.

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