Entertainment TV exposure leads to rise of populist politicians

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London, March 27 (IANS) Is your child addicted to entertainment television? Beware, he or she is more likely to become socio-politically challenged as an adult, leading to voting for populist politicians like Donald Trump, researchers say.

The findings showed that children exposed to entertainment television were 13 per cent less likely to report an interest in politics and 10 per cent less likely to be involved in a voluntary group.

Further, they were also more likely to become cognitively disadvantaged.

They scored five per cent worse than their non-exposed peers in cognitive test as adults, the researchers reported in a working paper from QMUL’s School of Economics and Finance.

“Our results suggest that individuals exposed to entertainment TV as children are less cognitively sophisticated and less socio-politically engaged as adults, and ultimately more vulnerable to populist rhetorics,” said Andrea Tesei, economist at Queen Mary University of London (QMUL).

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“It’s the first major study to investigate the political effect of exposure among voters to a diet of ‘light’ entertainment. The results are timely as the US adjusts to the Presidency of Donald Trump,” Tesei added.

For the study, the team investigated the political impact of entertainment television in Italy over the last 30 years during the phased introduction of Silvio Berlusconi’s commercial TV network Mediaset.

They compared the voting behaviours of people who lived in regions where Mediaset was broadcast versus those where Berlusconi’s network was unavailable.

The results suggested a relationship between exposure to light-fare TV and preferences for populist parties and leaders.

“Entertainment content can influence political attitudes, creating a fertile ground for the spread of populist messages,” Tesei said.

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