In 2002, when Dr. David Jackson published the first edition of Entertainment and Politics: The Influence of Pop Culture on Young Adult Political Socialization, there was no YouTube, Oprah Winfrey had never endorsed a political candidate and the Internet had not yet been used extensively as a campaign fundraising tool.
The social media landscape has changed considerably since then. Not only have all the above occurred, but the 2008 presidential election saw “a little video called ‘Yes, We Can’ get tens of millions of hits” on YouTube, helping catapult Barack Obama to victory, said Jackson, political science.
Given all these developments, it was time for an update of the book, which is a widely used text “for understanding how young people acquire and hold political beliefs over time,” according to the publisher.
Substantially revised and more theoretically driven than the first edition, the new book also provides “more sophisticated analysis,” Jackson said, now that scholarship in the field has developed along with the growing link between politics and popular culture.
In the second edition of Entertainment and Politics, due out shortly from Peter Lang Publishing, Jackson expands his study of youth and media significantly to include surveys of not only young people in the United States but in Canada, Ireland and England as well.
Contributing to the new edition was Dr. Neal Jesse, chair of the political science department, who co-wrote the chapters on England and Ireland, based on surveys and research he conducted while a visiting professor at the University of Manchester in 2007.
Although since 2002 “alternate means of political communication and persuasion” have grown considerably and celebrity endorsements for candidates and causes have proliferated, Jackson found in his surveys that young people continue to remain fairly firm in their original beliefs.
“We’re finding more evidence of reinforcement rather than persuasion,” he said. Thus, young people tend to identify with those messages that echo their already existing leanings, whether liberal or conservative, and are strengthened in their convictions by compatible media messages.
When a celebrity whose opinions young people respect—such as Bono of U2—advocates for an issue, “young people who support the idea really embrace it. If it’s an unpopular idea, those against it don’t change but just tend to less strongly disagree,” Jackson said. Once their opposition is weakened, though, repeated exposure over time to a credible celebrity message could begin to sway their opinion, he theorized, calling these spokespeople “agents of socialization.”
The age of the message recipient and the particular moment in history also play a large part in societal opinion shifts, he added. “People ages 18-22 are more open to change,” Jackson said, and young people today are exposed to so many new issues such as gay marriage and environmental concerns that their opinions can be as yet unformed.