Poll Results: Kent Hance and Pop Culture

Zombies and Miley Cyrus and government shutdown, oh my!

Earlier this month, Public Policy Polling posted the results of a survey testing Americans’ approval of Congress – and the reactions were interesting.

During the government shutdown, respondents had a lower opinion of Congress than subjects ranging from zombies to potholes to cockroaches.

Congress was still found to be more favorable than Miley Cyrus, Honey Boo Boo and Lindsay Lohan.

Hance Respondent ClassificationsCongress’ comparison inspired a version of that poll, but tailored to Texas Tech University. In the midst of the media frenzy about Tech Chancellor Kent Hance’s retirement announcement, a poll published on The Hub quizzed respondents on their awareness of various pop culture and headline-grabbing topics against their familiarity with news about Hance.

More than three-quarters of those who answered said they heard more about the partial government shutdown than news of  Hance’s retirement.

Hance said although the federal government shutdown made national and international headlines, he was pleased to have been noted in local news.

“Well the government shutdown was an ongoing thing that lasted weeks and weeks,” Hance said, “and my retirement was something that lasted one day, and my retirement didn’t lead the news in the networks at 5:30, nor did it lead Fox and CNN. It lead major publications that are more important, like The Hub, Avalanche-Journal, Daily Toreador, Channel 11, 13, 28 and 34.”

Approximately 60-percent of respondents answered that they were more interested in zombies than news about Hance.

Although the undead may capture more students’ interest than his retirement, Hance said students will care more about him than zombies when he hands them their diplomas at graduation.

“I understand that zombies might beat me on one there, but that doesn’t upset me,” Hance said, “but when it comes time to graduate, I’ll be a lot more important than the zombies.”

A little more than half of the survey participants answered that they were more aware of pop singer Miley Cyrus than Hance.hance vs popculture

Hance said he tried to emulate Cyrus’ now-famous hairstyle on the day he announced his retirement, but he met some challenges.

“I started, when I was going to announce my retirement, to see if I could get my hair to look like two little horns,” Hance said of Cyrus’ signature pigtails. “I just couldn’t braid it. I just don’t have enough material to work with, so, I couldn’t get it out there, and the other thing, I thought if I stick my tongue out at people, they’re going to think I’m mad at them. So, I thought it was best to be Kent Hance, rather than Miley Cyrus.”

On who represents Texas Tech better, the answers were split. Head football coach Kliff Kingsbury beat out the chancellor as more representative of the university by only 5 percent.

Hance said he was honored to be compared to Kingsbury and to come close to the former Tech quarterback’s representation.

‘That’s the greatest honor I’ve had in a long time, that I would be within five or 10 points of Kliff Kingsbury,” Hance said. “He’s one of the great hires that I’ve helped participate in since I’ve been here.”

Erik Bucy, Ph.D, Regents Professor of Strategic Communication at the College of Media & Communication at Tech, said student responses favoring popular culture reflect a media reinforcement effect. Due to agenda-setting, people consume media focused on popular figures, trends and events, he said.

“Pop culture wins out,” Bucy said, “whether you’re on a college campus or whether you’re not. When you look at media and the content that’s covered, you get a very consistent pattern in national news. So, it’s not surprising to me that Miley Cyrus wins out.”

Bucy said this also accounts for why Kliff Kingsbury, who appears on national TV as Tech’s head football coach, becomes more identified with the university, rather than the chancellor, who has been here for six years.

The sensational topics do present social significance, Bucy said. People like being told morality tales, he said, and attention to trendy news can lead to societal discussions of what is proper, such as Miley Cyrus’ recent scandalous behavior raising the issue of what is the role of young women and celebrities as role models.

kh2Hance said students hear more about mainstream topics, which create more excitement than traditional news stories.

“There’s not a lot of excitement in a chancellor announcing his retirement,” Hance said. “There’s not a lot of excitement in a congressional hearing. There’s not a lot of excitement in developing a new program at Texas Tech, as much as there is in Texas Tech defeating Oklahoma State this weekend, and that doesn’t bother me at all. That’s just a part of society, and you have to adapt to that.”

Now, The Hub is quizzing you on Kliff Kingsbury and the Red Raider football team. This week’s poll concerns your opinions, post-OU game.

Abbie Arroyos, Alicia Keene and Evan Dixon contributed to this report.

About Abbie Arroyos and Alicia Keene
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