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Five of the key dependent variables were measured at both the first and
second testing sessions: basic political knowledge, interest in the legis
lature, attitude toward the legislators, political efficacy, and reading
legislature news in the newspapers. The interrelationships among the experi
mental group change scores on these variables help determine intervening con
ditions which facilitate the impact of the program series on viewers. Below
are the correlations among the Tl - T2 gain scores for the 176 subjects exposed to the programs who completed all three questionnaires :
These findings indicate that gains in interest and attitude play the
most important role in producing changes on the other variables. Speculative causal inferences will be discussed in the final portion of this report.
Self-Report Reactions to Program Viewing
After viewing the final video tape presentation of "Today in the Legislature," the experimental subjects completed a one-page evaluation sheet
which probed their reactions to the program series. Table 7 presents the
questions and distribution of responses.
Experimental Group Self-Report Reactions to Program Tape Series
In general, did you find the programs dull or interesting?
In the shows, what things did you see that were most interesting?
0 % other issues
16 debates, arguments
What kinds of things did you learn most about? (open ended)
If you had a chance, would you like to see any more of these in school?
Have you talked about these programs with anyone outside of school?
N=284 students who viewed program tapes and completed post-experimental
The students were not overly ench an ted with the television coverage of the legislature. Only 12% found the programs "interesting," while twice as many felt that the shows were "dull." The majority fell into the "in between" category. Nevertheless, three-fifths said they would like to watch more of the programs in school.
Predictably, the 18-year-old rights issue attracted the most interest.
The general debates and arguments were interesting to about one-fifth of the sample, but were identified as dull by one-eighth of the subjects. Almost
half cited the process of debate and argumentation as the element of the ser
ies that they "learned most about." Most students reported learning some
thing from the viewing experience: almost one-fourth felt that they "learned
a lot" and three-fifths selected the "learned a little" category. The series
stimulated three-fourths of the sample to discuss the programs outside of
school, mainly with parents and peers.
The key variable of program attractiveness (along the interesting-dull dimension) was subjected to more extensive analyses. Table 8 shows that
older students were more interested in the program series than younger stu
dents. Student characteristics such as race, sex, socio-economic status,
and scholastic ability had little impact on interest in the television tapes.
Subjects originally most interested in the legislature tended to find the
programs more interesting. No other antecedent factors (media use, discus
sion, attitudes, or knowledge ) were related to the interesting-dull evalu
Considering program attractiveness as an independent variable, Table 8
shows that subjects who found the series interesting increased their inter
est in the legislature itself. Favorable attitude change toward the
Experimental Group Correlates of Post-Viewing Program Interest Ratings
N=176 students who viewed program tapes and completed questionnaires at
all three sessions.
sociations for talking with parents and talking with friends were stronger
than were the Tl correlations. Unexpectedly, interest value ratings were unrelated to subsequent home viewing of public television coverage of the legislature. In another surprising finding, those who found the programs dull learned virtually the same amount on the knowledge indices as subjects
who rated the programs as interesting.
SUMMARY AND DISCUSSION
Let us begin this concluding section by summarizing what appear to be the key findings in this study. The myriad and complex analyses in the preceding section support the following tentative generalizations:
Exposure to the television public affairs series in the classroom fa
1. Interest in the political system, an interest which emerged immediately after exposure to the series, and which persisted for an additional month, at least. This interest was found especially among the younger and black viewers. It increased among those with initially high
interest, among those who had more initial belief in the efficacy of the
political system, and among those who generally did more interpersonal
talking about politics. This accelerated level of political interest also
appeared to spur positive increments in other political socialization
2. with friends.
Interpersonal discussion about politics with parents and
Although somewhat more delayed in emerging, higher levels
of interpersonal political interaction persisted at the delayed test wave,
and were a clear effect of the series exposure. More political talking