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Effects of Watching Political Talk Shows on Political Efficacy and Political Participation.

Byline: Lubna Zaheer

Abstract

Political talk shows are considered important towards influencing political opinions and views of public. This paper examines political talk shows telecast on news channels of Pakistan. It has been examined whether a relationship exists between exposure to talk shows with political efficacy and political participation. For this purpose, a survey has been conducted amongst respondents having various demographics. Results indicate that exposure to talk shows positively influences the level of individual political efficacy and participation. Furthermore, various demographic factors have been found significant towards the relationship of talk shows consumers with political efficacy and political participation.

Key words: Political talk shows, political efficacy, political participation, talk shows exposure, and demographic factors

Introduction

Having the potential to become an agent of transformation in today's world, mass media has gained much significance (Gautam, 2015). Although, all types of media have their own importance and subsequent influence, yet television is thought to be a medium whose significance is growing fast. TV has become an integral part of our lives and it seems difficult to imagine life without it. In recent years, the number and accessibility to satellite and cable television has increased considerably (Jensen and Oster, 2009). Over time television has evolved from just providing entertainment to delivering information to its viewers and an exposure to the outside world (Jansen and Oster, 2009). Having wide reach and viewership, it has gained importance in raising/ creating awareness and driving insight in society.

Television is thought to be an important consideration when it comes to political knowledge and responsiveness. In recent times, it tends to affect the political scenario and has the ability to set agenda for national debate (Wilson, 2001) and contemporary global political affairs (Gamson, 1999). Especially political talk shows have gained prominence in the provision of political discourse and dialogue to public amongst various genres of television programs. Considering the value of political shows, even top-ranked politicians like to appear in television talk shows (BoukesandBoomgaarden, 2016). In this way, they find a fitting platform to disseminate their message at a mass level. The presence of political entities in political talk shows along-with a reciprocated public interest has elevated the significance of this genre and for this very reason mass communication experts and researchers feel incited to study the social and political influences of this genre (Timberg, 2002).

Generally, popular political matters of public interest are brought under discussion in political shows; however, most of the time, these matters are connected to government and its authority (AbedinandMoniruzzaman, 2015). One aspect that distinguishes these discussion-based programs from news (i.e. reports and bulletins) is their way of communication. Unlike news reports, these shows provide information in an interactive manner and largely ensure two-way communication (BBC, 2013). Resultantly, the discussion in talk shows is believed to enable the media consumers to comprehend various aspects of the issues and demand their rights from the governments (Mahsud et al., 2013). It is largely considered that political talk shows affect the social and political understandings and opinions of the viewers (Vovou, 2007).

Political Efficacy and Political Participation:

Political efficacy and political participation are two important concepts that are often studied in relation to mass media. Campbell, Gurin and Miller (1954) describe political efficacy as the belief in one's own competence and the feeling that political and social change is possible. There are two dimensions of political efficacy i.e. internal and external. Internal efficacy means the belief of an individual in his or her competence to understand and be involved in a political or a democratic system; however, external efficacy means the belief about the government's capability of being responsive and effective (Hoffman and Thomson, 2009; Kenskiand Stroud, 2006; Niemi, Craig, andMattei, 1991). An individual with high political efficacy shows self-confidence in his capability to bring change in the political situation (Corrigall-Brown and Wilkes, 2014).

Results of different studies show that political efficacy determines political behaviors of people (Abramson and Aldrich, 1982) and especially escalates political participation (Finkel, 1985; GastilandXenos, 2010; Stenner-Day and Fischle, 1992).

As far as political participation is concerned, Conway (2000) hypothesized political participation as encompassing those activities, which citizens carry out with the intention of influencing the structure and policies of government. This influence may be direct or indirect by affecting the policies or the policy makers. (Burns, Schlozman,andVerba, 2001). Other than casting a vote in elections, political participation adds various other activities including; working as a political campaign worker, discoursing political issues, attending political meetings, boycotting certain activities, protests, and correspondence with political representatives and related pursuits (Alesina and Giuliano, 2009). Other than the aforementioned activities, minor actions like wearing a badge or a button/ pin in support of a candidate, also fall in the realm of political participation (Kenski and Stroud, 2006).

Media, Political Efficacy and Participation:

Various research studies have found significant relationship between media exposure or consumption with efficacy (Aarts and Semetko, 2003; Coleman et al., 2008; Carpini and Keeter, 1996; Gecas, 2000; McLeod et al., 1996; Moy et al., 2005; Norris, 2000; Scheufele and Nisbet, 2002) as well as political participation (Eveland and Scheufele, 2000; de Vreese and Boomgaarden, 2006; Schulz, 2005; Zhang and Chia, 2007).

Insofar as political efficacy is concerned, it has also been found related with media exposure. It has been observed that people who are inclined to search for political news information retain more political efficacy as compared to those whose inclination towards political news is less (Pinkleton and Austin, 2001). Although all types of media are important in this regard however newspapers are considered especially significant in nurturing both internal and external efficacy (Kim and Ball-Rokeach, 2006). On the contrary, there are studies in which a modest (MecLeod et al., 1996) and no (Opdycke et al., 2013) relationship were found between media consumption and political efficacy.

Various scholars reason that genre of television programs is of paramount importance, which determines the level of relationship between media exposure and political participation (Hoffman and Thomson, 2009; Livingstone and Markham, 2008). Television talk shows are regarded as an important genre that demonstrates the aforementioned relationship. For instance, if exposure to these talk shows influences the consumers emotionally and increases their political efficacy and a sense of empowerment, these "psychological rewards" may further persuade the active citizens towards political participation. Bucy and Gregson (2001) found in their study that even the politically inactive people could be influenced towards some latent political participation through political talk shows. Corrigall-Brown and Wilkes (2014) conclude that voting, which is a prominent form of political participation, could be influenced through media exposure.

However, the decision, whether the impact will be positive or negative, would depend on the type of medium being used for getting political information (Opdycke et al., 2013).

In this context, demographics are amongst other factors that influence this relationship: for instance, age (Turcotte, 2015) and education (Jenlink, 2009; Perrin, 2006) have been found predictors to political participation. These studies found that better educated people are inclined to protest against government and/or its policies. Likewise, it was learnt that most of the time youth is more likely to take part in civic and political non-electoral activities.

In Pakistan, political talk shows are considered very important in the formation of public opinion (Mahsud et al, 2013; Madni, Shahzad, and Abdullah, 2012). Considering the above-mentioned discourse, this research study intends to examine the political talk shows presented on Pakistani news channels. It has been observed if the exposure to political talk shows is related with political efficacy and political participation of viewers. The hypotheses of the study are mentioned below.

H1: Exposure to political talk shows has a positive relationship with political efficacy and political participation

H2: Political efficacy and political participation has a significant relationship with each other

H4: Demographics of viewers influence their level of political efficacy and political participation

Methodology

In order to examine the set hypotheses, survey method has been adopted. The data has been collected from respondents (N=211) belonged to various demographics.

Talk shows exposure: In order to examine the exposure to political talk shows, the respondents have been asked the number of hours in a week that they spend on watching political talk shows. They have been asked to self-report the amount of time they spend for watching political talk shows (M= 3.71, SD= 2.455).

Political Participation:

The scale of political participation used in this study has been derived by means of merging the scales ofVerba andNie (1972) and Cao (2008). In order to measure political participation, a 7-item scale has been adopted (a=.756) in which respondents are asked to report different activities. In this regard, a 5-point Likert-type scale has been used with the response options of never (coded as 1), rarely (coded as 2), sometimes (coded as 3), often (coded as 4) and always (coded as 5).

Information asked about political activities include discussion about politics with friends, family and colleagues etc. (sometime= 28%, M= 3.10, SD= 1.282), sharing political content on social media like Facebook and Twitter etc. (sometime= 26.1%, M= 2.62, SD= 1.291), writing letters or emails about some political issue to any media organization or politician (never= 62.1%, M= 1.64, SD=.977), participation in any political rally/ dharna/ jalsa (never= 52.1%, M= 1.89, SD= 1.139), contact with any political official i.e. Politician, MNA, MPA or councilor etc. (Never= 39.8% M= 2.08, SD= 1.095), contribution of money to a political party or candidate (never= 69.2%, M= 1.53, SD=.922), attend political party meeting or political campaign activity (never= 44.1%, M= 2.03, SD= 1.158).

Political Efficacy:

The scale of political efficacy has been developed from the scale developed by Neimi et al (1991). Few amendments are made in the scale in order to make it compatible with the situation in Pakistan. In this 7-item scale (a= .756), questions have been asked from respondents with the response options of strongly disagree (coded as 1), disagree (2), neutral (3), agree (4) and strongly agree (coded as 5).

Information asked about political efficacy include: I consider myself to be well qualified to participate in politics (agree= 29.9%, M= 2.98, SD= 1.181), I feel that I have a pretty good understanding of the important political issues facing our country/ province (agree= 42.2%, M= 3.42, SD= 1.086), I feel that I could do as good a job in public office as most other people do (agree= 36%, M= 3.28, SD= 1.135), I think that I am better informed about politics and government than most of the other people (agree= 33.6%, M= 3.09, SD= 1.163), Sometimes politics and government seem so complicated that a person like me can't really understand what's going on (agree= 28.9%, M= 3.08, SD= 1.312), People like me don't have any say about what the government does (disagree= 35.1%, M= 2.81, SD= 1.181), I think public officials don't care much what people like me think (agree= 41.7%, M= 3.69, SD= 1.209).

Interest in politics and political talk shows:

In addition to these two scales, two items are included in the questionnaire to ask the respondents about the intensity of their interest in politics (very little= 32.7%, M= 2.61, SD=.982) and watching political talk shows (very little= 34.6%, M= 2.56, SD=.850). For acquisition of appropriate answers a 4 point scale was used i.e. not at all (coded as 1), very little (coded as 2), fairly enough (coded as 3), and very much (coded as 4).

Demographic factors:

The demographic variables added in the study include gender (67.8% male, M=.68, SD=.468), age (M= 28.9, SD= 10.579), approximate monthly income (M= 52734.60, SD= 42228.242) and education (M= 4.98, SD= 1.211).

Preference for media and talk show:

In order to examine the exposure to different media, the respondents have been asked to report their preference about various types of media for getting political information. The types of media include newspapers (M= 1.93, SD= .740), TV news channels (M= 2.51, SD=.657), political magazines or periodicals (M= 1.51 SD=.635) and online or internet (M= 2.07., SD=.816).

Respondents have also been queried about their preference for different political talk shows including Capital Talk (M= 1.98, SD=.780), Naya Pakistan (M= 1.83, SD=.687), Off the record (M= 1.94, SD=.711), Tonight with Moeed Pirzadah (M= 1.79, SD=.754), On the front (M= 1.86, SD=.774), Nadeem Malik Live (M= 1.72, SD=.777), G for Ghareeda (M= 1.58, SD= .708), DNA with ArifNazami (M= 1.59, SD=.721).In order to obtain appropriate responses a 3 point scale was used i.e. don't prefer (coded as 1), occasionally prefer (coded as 2) and always prefer (coded as 3).

Findings

Talk shows, political efficacy and participation:

Table 1 shows a Spearman's correlation matrix of three variables i.e. exposure to political talk shows, political efficacy and political participation. Statistical analysis shows that exposure to political talk shows is correlated to political efficacy (rho =.269, p < 0.01) and political participation (rho =.312, p < 0.01). Furthermore, political efficacy has been found correlated with political participation (r =.138, p < 0.05).

Hence, results of the study support the first and second hypotheses (H1and H2) of the study. It has been concluded from the results that exposure to political talk shows has a significant influence on the political efficacy and participation of viewers. People with a higher frequency of talk show viewership tend to have a higher level of political efficacy and these shows tend to make them active participants in political activities. The positive correlation shows that the more they watch political talk shows, the more politically efficacious and operative they would be.

Similarly, a significant relationship has been found between political efficacy and political participation, which indicates that high level of efficacy would lean towards increasing the level of political participation.

Table-1. Spearman's correlation matrix of key variables

###Variables###Exposure###to Pol.###Pol.

###political###talk Efficacy###Participation

###shows

###Exposure to###-###-###-

###political talk

###shows

###Pol. Efficacy###. 269**###-###-

###Pol. Participation###. 312**###.138*###-

Gender, Political Efficacy and Participation:

The research study also examined the relationship between talk show exposure with political efficacy and political participation in terms of gender, which was done in order to ascertain whether the element of gender had an influence over political efficacy and participation. For the purpose a t-test was applied to the data. Findings show a significant difference in political participation across gender. However, an insignificant difference has been found in political efficacy.

In this regard, statistically significant difference has been noted between political participation of male (t= -2.708, p < 0.05) and female (t= -2.840, p 0.05) and female (t= -1.046, p> 0.05) respondents. Same insignificant difference has been indicated by mean score of males (M= 3.2248) and females (M= 3.1261) (see Table 2).

Table 2. t-test analysis of gender

###Female###Male

Variables###Mean###Mean###t###Df###Sig. (2-tailed)

Pol.###-###209###.005

Participation###1.9538###2.2078###2.708###149.049

###-

###2.840

Pol. Efficacy###-###209###.297

###3.1261###3.2248###1.002###147.364

###-

###1.046

Age, Political Efficacy and Participation:

In order to examine if age influences the relationship of talk show exposure with political efficacy and political participation, one-way ANOVA has been performed on data. Statistical analysis shows that in terms of age insignificant difference exists in political efficacy (F= 2.014, p=.136) and political participation (F=.984, p=.375) of the respondents.

Income, Political Efficacy and Participation:

With the aim of examining the political efficacy and participation in terms of Income, one-way ANOVA has been applied to data. Statistical analysis indicates significant difference (F= 4.319, p=.015) in political efficacy of the respondents with reference to their income.

Insofar as the relationship of income with political participation is concerned, output of ANOVA test (F= 4.528, p=.012) shows that significance level stands 0.01, which is below 0.05. It means that a significant difference exists between political participation of the respondents with reference to their income (see Table 4).

Table 4. Income Descriptive (ANOVA)

###N###Mean###Std.###F###Sig

###Deviation

Pol. Efficacy###4.319###.015

LMC###75###3.0190###.60942

UMC###71###3.3280###.66849

EC###65###3.2462###.70100

Total###211###3.1930###.66890

Pol.###4.528###.012

Participation

LMC###75###2.0457###.61295

UMC###71###2.0302###.53064

EC###65###2.3231###.75562

Total###211###2.1259###.64629

Tukey HSD multiple comparisons test has also been applied to the data, which reveal that in case of efficacy, two income groups (i.e. Lower middle class and middle class) show significant difference (p=.01). However, in case of political participation middle class and upper middle class show significant difference (p=.02) (see Table 4.1).

The results indicate that the people belonging to middle class and lower class get politically efficacious after watching political talk shows. Between both classes, middle class people are found more influenced as compared to lower middle class. It may be argued that higher income people have more political efficacy than lower income people by watching political talk shows. It was noted that Upper middle class people were not affected in this regard.

On the other hand, it has been noted that the effects of political talk shows are higher on the level of political participation of upper middle class and middle class people. Upper middle class has especially shown a greater inclination towards political participation.

Table 4.1. Multiple Comparisons ANOVA of income (Tukey HSD)

(I) Income###(J) Income###Mean Difference###Sig.

###(I-J)

Political efficacy

###MC###-.30892*###.014

LMC

###UMC###-.22711###.106

###LMC###.30892*###.014

MC

###UMC###.08181###.750

###LMC###.22711###.106

UMC

###MC###-.08181###.750

Political participation

###MC###.01553###.988

LMC

###UMC###-.27736*###.029

###LMC###-.01553###.988

MC

###UMC###-.29290*###.021

###LMC###.27736*###.029

UMC

###MC###.29290*###.021

Education, Political Efficacy and Participation:

One-way ANOVA has been performed to data for examining the political efficacy and participation in terms of education. Statistical analysis shows insignificant difference between political efficacy (F= 2.375, p=.096) and political participation (F= 1.509, p=.223) of the respondents with reference to their education.

Public preference for seeking political information:

The respondents were also asked various questions to know their interest towards politics and political talk shows shown on television channels of Pakistan. Although, the highest number of respondents (32.7%) has reported that they feel "very little" interest in politics, however, most of the respondents (41.7%) have told that they are "very much" interested in watching political debates in TV talk shows.

It has been noted that most of the people prefer to use television news channels as the most "preferred media" for getting political information. Newspapers, on the other hand, have been found to be the "occasionally preferred" medium. Subsequently, political magazines and periodicals have been observed to be "least preferred" source for obtaining political information amongst respondents.

As far as most watched political talk shows are concerned, most of the respondents (29.4%) indicated that they "always prefer" to watch "Capital Talk" conducted by Hamid Mir followed by "on the front with Kamran Shahid" and Off the Record anchored by Kashif Abbassi. "Naya Pakistani" hosted by Talat Hussain was indicated as "occasionally preferred" show by the respondents. It has been learnt that when it comes to get political information, respondents "don't prefer" DNA with Arif Nazami, G. for Ghareedah, and Nadeem Malik Live.

Conclusions

The aim of the study was to find out the relationship between political talk shows exposure with political efficacy and participation. The findings of the study strengthen the notion that political talk show consumption has a direct relationship with political efficacy and participation. It has been observed that viewing political talk shows does influence the level of political efficacy and political participation of viewers. People who frequently watch these talk shows are more efficacious and retain an augmented tendency to participate in political activities.

There are other elements as well that intervene and influence the level of political efficacy and political participation which were also observed in this study, for instance, various demographics i.e. age, gender, education and income. Although age and education have not been found related with political efficacy and political participation, however, gender and income came forth as significant factors.

Gender has been found unrelated with efficacy, which means that both males and females have the same level of political efficacy by watching political talk shows. However, it has been observed that gender influences the level of political participation, as indicated in the results, male political show viewers have a higher inclination towards political participation and they take part in various activities. Likewise, income has also been found to have a close positive relation with efficacy and political participation.

It is often said that media is considered an important element in the transformation of society (Gautam, 2015), television especially has the ability to set agenda for national debate (Wilson, 2001). In the same context, it may be argued that political talk shows are one of the more significant elements in affecting political opinion and actions of people. Pakistani news channels and political talk shows have been instrumental in creating political awareness in society, mobilizing the masses, creating involvement in one way or another whether it is political debate or activity. Considering the results of the study, it may be said that these talk shows retain an ability to raise the efficacy level amongst people, generating a positive feeling among people that political and social change is possible. This confidence of people may evolve into action(s) and may persuade them towards political participation.

Furthermore, political talk shows may play a significant role in the persuasion of people towards positive and constructive political behaviors like tolerance and nationalism etc. This positive political participation might be critical towardspolitical systemand democratic governments but would not tend to give way to undemocratic behaviors and dictatorial regimes as it has been happened in past.

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Author:Zaheer, Lubna
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Date:Dec 31, 2016
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