A2 – The Irony of Satire: Political Ideology and the Motivation to See What You Want to See in “The Colbert Report.”

DOI: 10.1177/1940161208330904

Citation: LaMarre, H. L., Landreville, K. D., & Beam, M. A. (2009). The irony of satire: Political ideology and the motivation to see what you want to see in “The Colbert Report.” The International Journal of Press and Politics, 14(2), 212-231.


This study investigated biased message processing of political satire in The Colbert Report and the influence of political ideology on perceptions of Stephen Colbert. Results indicate that political ideology influences biased processing of ambiguous political messages and source in late-night comedy. Using data from an experiment (N = 332), we found that individual-level political ideology significantly predicted perceptions of Colbert’s political ideology. Additionally, there was no significant difference between the groups in thinking Colbert was funny, but conservatives were more likely to report that Colbert only pretends to be joking and genuinely meant what he said while liberals were more likely to report that Colbert used satire and was not serious when offering political statements. Conservatism also significantly predicted perceptions that Colbert disliked liberalism. Finally, a post hoc analysis revealed that perceptions of Colbert’s political opinions fully mediated the relationship between political ideology and individual-level opinion.

Blog Entry:

The Irony of Reporting

Press Coverage:

Malcolm Gladwell’s Revisionist History podcast
New Republic
Chicago Tribune: 2009 / 2017
Globe & Mail
The Guardian
Crooks & Liars
Huffington Post

Countdown with Keith Olbermann: