"Saturday Night Live" political skits may actually have an influence on voters, in the opinion of several academics who have studied the issue.
William Horner, a political science professor at the University of Missouri, has studied the influence of SNL on voters for an upcoming book he's writing. When the show debuted in 1976, Jimmy Carter was running to unseat Gerald Ford. Because of incidents in which Ford tripped and fell on the stairs of Air Force One, twice, SNL's version using Chevy Chase portrayed Ford as a clumsy person. The Columbia Tribune reports Horner thinks this was very important to the '76 election:
Horner is convinced Chevy Chase's impersonation of a bumbling Ford influenced the outcome of the election. Chase, in later interviews, has admitted he wanted Carter to win, but Horner said Michaels is adamant that "SNL" is not and cannot be biased, for risk of losing fans.
However, he's not sure this year SNL will be as influential as in the 2008 election.
Joe Saltzman, a professor in the USC Annenberg School for Communication, said in 2008 there is "anecdotal evidence" of SNL's influence, nothing official.
"The perception is that there’s an audience that cites its primary news source as predominantly entertainment shows and, if valid, this certainly would have an impact on the presidential election," Saltzman said. "The fact that the candidates go on "The Daily Show," SNL and the "Tonight Show" means they believe the shows have impact on the voters."
Indeed, both Barack Obama and John McCain went on SNL and "The Daily Show" during the 2008 campaign. George W. Bush made an appearance on SNL before winning the election as well.
"Appearances on late-night comedy programs have become an essential part of campaign strategy and, increasingly, political strategy more generally," Lauren Feldman, a scholar at the School of Communication at American University told Big Think. "This is, in large part, due to the fragmentation, or breaking up, of the mass media audience."
Even Richard Nixon appeared on Rowan & Martin's "Laugh-In" in 1968 to famously ask "Sock it to me?"
Feldman noted Obama was the first sitting president to actually appear on a comedy show, when he went on the "Tonight Show" in 2009, subsequently on David Letterman and "The Daily Show."
In the recently released video of Mitt Romney at a fundraiser, the current GOP candidate said he turned down an offer to appear on SNL because he thought it wouldn't "look presidential." He might not realize that current and previous presidents went on there before they were elected.
Related on HuffPost:
With the aid of late puppeteer Frank W. Ballard, the University of Connecticut has become a proud leader in the art of puppeteering, offering a B.F.A., M.A. and M.F.A. The <a href="http://www.drama.uconn.edu/Puppetry/Puppet_home.htm" target="_hplink">school reports</a> that since the program's beginning in 1964, there have been nearly 500 student puppet productions. In an <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2010/06/14/arts/14ballard.html" target="_hplink"><em>New York Times</em></a> article published after Ballard's death, the program was lauded as "a Mecca for puppeteers in training."
Schools such as <a href="http://www.reg.msu.edu/academicprograms/ProgramDetail.asp?Program=0405" target="_hplink">Michigan State University</a> provides this program in order to maximize a student's career in the manufactured products industries. Required classes include a range of serious science and math classes, along with courses titled "Packaging with Glass and Metal" and "Packaging with Paper and Paperboard."
Viticulture & Enology: Grape Growing and Winemaking
UC Davis and Cornell University take advantage of their ripe location in providing this major. As <a href="http://grapesandwine.cals.cornell.edu/cals/grapesandwine/undergraduate/index.cfm" target="_hplink">Cornell's website </a>explains, "Due to rapid growth in the region's wine industry, there simply aren't enough people qualified to manage vineyards and run wineries," while <a href="http://wineserver.ucdavis.edu/" target="_hplink">UC Davis</a> states that the University of California has had this sort of program for over 100 years.
Acknowledging the significance of comic books in modern society, <a href="http://mcad.edu/academic-programs/comic-art" target="_hplink">Minneapolis College of Art and Design </a>offers a B.F.A in Comic Art. Students in the program study "line, color, and composition, as well as character development, storyboarding, and plot." Future careers include: Cartoonist, Comic Editor, Comic Illustrator, Comic Writer, Penciler, Colorist, Letterer, Inker
Bowling Industry Management and Technology
At Vincennes University in Indiana, the laboratory is substituted for a bowling center. According to the school's <a href="http://www.vinu.edu/content/bowling-industry-management-and-technology" target="_hplink">website</a>, the major is intended to prepare students for "management of a bowling center, sales and marketing, pro shop operations, and pinsetter mechanics."
<a href="http://www.cmu.edu/about/history/index.shtml" target="_hplink">Andrew Carnegie</a> did not neglect to honor his Scottish roots when he established Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, PA in 1900. Since the early 1990s, the school has offered a degree in bagpipes. In an interview with the <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/1990/07/15/style/campus-life-carnegie-mellon-a-different-beat-when-bagpiping-becomes-a-major.html" target="_hplink"><em>New York Times</em></a> in 1990, Marilyn Taft Thomas, head of Carnegie Mellon's music department stated, "The entire tradition of campus has been to have celebratory bagpiping. It just makes sense for us to acknowledge bagpipes as a legitimate musical instrument."
Bakery Science and Management
In this major, available at <a href="http://www.ag.ksu.edu/p.aspx?tabid=876" target="_hplink">Kansas State University</a>, students not only take classes in baking and cereal science, milling, flour and dough testing, but also in math, science, and microbiology. The program falls under the larger College of Agriculture, and is listed among other unique majors offered within the College, such as <a href="http://www.ag.ksu.edu/p.aspx?tabid=995" target="_hplink">Wildlife and Outdoor Enterprise Management</a> or <a href="http://www.ag.ksu.edu/p.aspx?tabid=882" target="_hplink">Park Management and Conservation</a>.
Video Game Design
Video game fanatics can live out their dream at certain colleges by majoring in video game design. The major can be found at a plethora of different universities, with schools as prestigious as such<a href="http://cinema.usc.edu/degrees/minor/videogame.cfm" target="_hplink"> University of Southern California </a>providing a minor in Video Game Design & Management.