Entertainment Bias: A Case Study of the Tonight Show and the California Gubernatorial Recall Election in 2003

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Virginia Tech


This thesis looks at entertainment bias, specifically bias on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno towards Arnold Schwarzenegger during the time leading up to the California recall election in 2003. Entertainment media possess a unique ability to communicate messages to an unguarded audience, which gives them the potential to have more of a political impact than traditional news media. The basic theory is that Jay Leno showed political bias in his monologues towards his friend and gubernatorial candidate, Arnold Schwarzenegger. This theory was tested through a highly detailed descriptive analysis of monologue jokes and summary data for the time period March 31, 2003 to October 6, 2003. In total, there were 388 jokes from monologues of the Tonight Show analyzed. These jokes were broken down into categories based on their content and the subject. They were then compared to jokes delivered on the Late Show with David Letterman about the California recall election. The analysis of jokes showed that the manner in which candidates were portrayed on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno was politically biased towards Arnold Schwarzenegger. Due to the differences in program structure it was difficult to determine if this political bias was also present in the Late Show with David Letterman.



Jay Leno, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Entertainment Bias, California Gubernatorial Recall Election 2003