The relationship between television viewing and the political knowledge and behaviors of the emerging adults

Cooper Lawrence, Fordham University


This study sought to explore the relationship between the television viewing habits of the emerging adult population as they related to the likelihood of political behaviors and political knowledge. Arnett (1999) defines emerging adulthood as the period of transition to adulthood, beginning in the late teen years and continuing until the age of thirty. Since voting age begins at 18 and Jennings (1989) suggested that the age of thirty is widely considered the hardening of the political arteries, this study's participants were aged 18-30. Strong correlations were found between television viewing and political behaviors in this sample, specifically, news programming (conservative, liberal, and neutral), which was related to more political behavior likelihood but to less political knowledge. Results of this study also show that watching entertainment television was related to the likelihood of engaging in political behavior, but so was watching political news, satirical news and shows about law and fairness. Entertainment television had a negative relationship with political knowledge, yet no other television genre was found to share a relationship to political knowledge, negative or positive. No ethnic differences or gender differences were found with respect to political knowledge or the likelihood of engaging in political behaviors. However, age differences were found suggesting that older emerging adults (<25) were more likely than younger emerging adults (>25) to watch political news and satirical news (shows like The Daily Show). There was strong evidence that non-TV news (Internet, radio and newspapers) had a relationship with political behavior likelihood but not to political knowledge, suggesting that future studies that parse out the three news sources may yield some potent results as to which may have the most impact on civic responsibility. In this study, income was strongly related with political behaviors, and even more importantly, the only demographic variable significantly correlated with political knowledge. The authors make the recommendation that future studies should examine income, as a proxy for education, to determine if a relationship exists between income and political knowledge and behaviors in the emerging adult population. Emerging adults represent not only a younger voting population but are a vanguard generation as the first to widely use new non-TV media as news sources. Questions remain regarding whether the new news environments will shift the long-standing pattern of income and political party affiliation and influence political and civic engagement.

Subject Area

Behavioral psychology|Developmental psychology

Recommended Citation

Lawrence, Cooper, "The relationship between television viewing and the political knowledge and behaviors of the emerging adults" (2013). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI3564913.