MCD: Research & Publications

The Media, Citizens & Democracy project continues to generate important research on the way news and entertainment media affect policy development and public perceptions of government. Findings are always free and available to the public.

The Primetime War on Drugs & Terror
Released in September 2011, ten years after 9/11 and 40 years after President Nixon’s declaration of a War on Drugs, the purpose of this study is to better understand the kinds of narratives about the War on Drugs and the War on Terror that are being told in mainstream television and to assess how these stories reflect or re-imagine reality. Princeton Survey Research Associates International carried out a content analysis of 49 primetime shows using an instrument we designed. Funding for this work was provided by the ACLU, but the report was written independently of the ACLU, reflecting only the analysis of its authors, Lear Center researchers Johanna Blakley and Sheena Nahm. The Lear Center also commissioned an online video by digital artist/storyteller Joe Sabia, who remixed snippets from the TV episodes we studied in order to convey the flavor of our findings to a broad online audience. Watch the video.

Democracy in the Age of New Media
The Norman Lear Center, in partnership with Brookings Institution, released a report in 2008 examining new media’s role in the U.S. immigration debate. The U.S. media have hindered effective policy-making on immigration for decades, promoting stalemate on an issue that is inherently difficult to resolve. This report explores how the media conditioned public opinion and the policy landscape during the national debate on immigration in 2006/07.

Changing Channels: Entertainment Television, Civic Attitudes and Actions
In 2004, the Lear Center released the results of a national survey that examined how perceptions of government, government employees and civic engagement themes are shaped by television. The report finds that entertainment TV shows motivate people to change their ideas and to pursue issues and topics explored in the shows. Read the fact sheet.

How Pro-Social Messages Make Their Way Into Entertainment Programming
This report by Mandy Shaivitz compiles research about communication, advocacy and entertainment-education campaigns that attempt to influence particular types of portrayals in entertainment television.

Changing Images of Government in TV Entertainment
The Media, Citizens & Democracy project drew upon this research performed by our partner organization, the Center for Excellence in Government. Here, S. Robert Lichter, Linda S. Lichter and Dan Amundson build upon an earlier study, “Government Goes Down the Tube: Images of Government in TV Entertainment,” which examined the program themes¬†and characters in a sample of 1,160 fictional primetime series episodes from 1955 through 1998. To bring this research up to date, they applied the same sampling procedures to 161 episodes from the 1999-2000 and 2000-2001 seasons. This report focuses on the changes from the 1992-1998 sample to the newer sample.