Wednesday, February 24, 2016

FWS Student Highlights: Aisha Shafi

Currently, I’m researching how political humor in late night comedy shows affects the political attitudes of the general public. The study covers opening monologues from “The Late Show With Stephen Colbert,” “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon,” “Jimmy Kimmel Live” and “The Daily Show With Trevor Noah.” This year I have the privilege of conducting research under the supervision of Dr. Robert Lichter, director of the Center for Media and Public Affairs and a GMU communications professor and alongside doctoral student, Deanne Canieso.

On a weekly basis, I use a quantitative content analysis coding scheme to analyze the introduction of each show for political humor. The joke is categorized based on the target and whether it’s policy-related, political, or personal. Earlier this week, many of the jokes concentrated on President Obama’s State of the Union address. Later in the week, they focused on the GOP debate.  

Preliminary results show that Trump was the target of 308 jokes where 71% of them concerned his personality or personal traits. 107 jokes targeted Hillary Clinton, nearly twice as many as her opponent Bernie Sanders. Republicans were targeted twice as often as Democrats, 590 jokes to 230 jokes. Fallon made the most jokes. Since the research is in its early stages, a concrete conclusion is yet to be determined regarding influence on the public’s opinion. As we continue with the research, we aim to find an adequate answer.

This opportunity has inspired me to consider pursuing a postdoctoral fellowship to continue to do research at an accredited institution on a topic related to government/politics. There are so many unknown variables that need to be explored and expanded. With the research, I hope to make a positive difference in the community, where people can learn from it and hopefully utilize it as well.