Document Type



political science, communication, and cultural studies

First Faculty Advisor

Holtzman, Richard


The Daily Show; cynicism; democracy; politics


Bryant University


In recent years, satirical news programs like The Daily Show with Jon Stewart have emerged as an important development in contemporary American society, culture, and politics. Critics have argued that The Daily Show has a negative impact on the political attitudes of American citizens by making them cynical about government and the political process as a whole. As a result of these attitudes, they argue, citizens are less apt to participate in politics and, in turn, this behavior is detrimental to American democracy. The purpose of this research project is to explore the debate over whether or not The Daily Show is indeed bad for democracy. Its objectives are not simply to develop my own answer to this question, but more importantly to critically unpack the question itself in order to analyze the complex relationships between The Daily Show, cynicism, and democracy. To do so, I review, analyze, and assess various and competing definitions of the concepts “cynicism” and “democracy,” and then use close readings of scholarship from political science, communication, and cultural studies to construct a “debate” on the question of the show’s significance for contemporary American democracy.