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The “I can see Russia from my house” Effect

There are many factors that contribute to a voter’s decision for presidential candidate: party affiliation, the state of the economy, running mate selection, media coverage, high profile debates, and Saturday Night Live? Maybe not as obvious, but SNL has been influencing presidential races since Gerald Ford’s bid for reelection in the 70’s.  You have to hand it to SNL, it’s an easy way to get ratings and the skits are basically written for them. 

I will not deny that I myself thoroughly enjoy tuning in on Thursdays and Saturdays to see what ridiculous thing Bobby Moynihan of the “Fox and Friends” skit will say next, but I have started to wonder what effect these parodies have on the average voter. FirstView, a national public opinion survey released by Roll Call, found that two-thirds of voters saw the SNL parodies in the 2008 election cycle.  Of those, 10 percent of voters openly admitted they had been influenced by the sketches.

The “SNL Effect” was most evident in the 2008 elections, with FirstView reporting that “six percent of respondents indicated the skits made them more likely to vote for President-elect Obama and Vice President-elect Joe Biden.”  Although not an overwhelming percentage, with two-thirds of voter’s watching the skits, 6 percent is enough to take notice.    

This time around, both Mitt Romney and President Obama will have to decide if and how they want to utilize the entertainment media.  Obama has already made his rounds on the evening circuit, with Letterman and Stewart under his belt.  Meanwhile, Romney has stated that he will not guest star on SNL in fear of appearing “unpresidential”, even though many U.S. presidents have graced the famous stage.

Being proactive is the key to success in this situation.  It does no good to sit back and pray they don’t do too much damage, since they most likely will. Have them laughing with you, not at you.  We don’t want another, “I can see Russia from my house” effect.  That sure did wonders for Sarah Palin’s political career. 

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