Using the White House Correspondents Dinner (WHCD) and the State of the Union (SOTU) as stimuli, our experiment (N = 403) examines the differential effect of exposure to humorous vs. serious presidential speech on the likelihood of engaging in post-exposure message elaboration. The results suggest that viewers are more likely to engage in message elaboration when viewing serious presidential speech like the SOTU rather than the more humorous WHCD. Additionally, disposition toward the president fails to moderate the impact of varied speech exposure on message elaboration. Our results ultimately show that, while WHCD humor may be quickly discounted, it can also provide a strategic distraction from political content. We discuss the implications of these results and confirm our main findings across the two most recent U.S. presidential administrations.
Becker, Amy B. and Waisanen, Don, "Laughing or Learning with the Chief Executive? The Impact of Exposure to Presidents’ Jokes on Message Elaboration" (2016). CUNY Academic Works.