Super PACs: Colbert Drives Interest in Political Process

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The positive impact of “The Colbert Bump” has been bestowed upon the political process this election cycle. In launching “Americans for a Better Tomorrow, Tomorrow” (May/June 2011), the 501(c)(4) organization “The Colbert Super PAC S.H.H.”(September 2011) and his exploratory committee to become “The President of the United States of South Carolina” (January 2012), Stephen Colbert has created an outstanding growth in online interest in PACs. Search traffic for variations of “Super PAC” directly correlates with major milestones in Mr. Colbert’s efforts.

In fact, “The Colbert Show” has impacted the lexicon web-users use to search for information about political action committees; people have shifted from searching for “PAC” to searching for “Super PAC” during the course of Colbert’s campaign. Moreover, people are increasingly seeking additional information about these organizations, as demonstrated in terms such as “what is a super PAC?” and “are {sic} super PAC dangerous?”

It remains to be seen whether these searches demonstrate a direct interest in political action committees or merely a desire to be “in on the joke.” Yet as people turn to sites like Wikipedia for PAC information, digital data indicates that The Colbert Report’s efforts to shine a light on the political process have been successful.

Of course, the genius of this piece in Colbert’s repertoire is that it doesn’t merely incite public curiosity in the US political system – it also drives interest in “The Colbert Report.” Traffic from searches for variations of “Colbert” has risen along with the major moments of his political shenanigans this year.

Though Colbert’s political follies have caused an uptick in search clicks, year-over-year it’s the terms “Stephen Colbert” and “Colbert Report” which have achieved the greatest growth.

Mr. Colbert’s dreams of becoming “The President of the United States of South Carolina” may have been dashed, but this election season promises to be a digital boon for the one-time presidential hopeful.

Thanks to Margot Bonner, Analyst with the Strategic Services group for today’s analysis.

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