Luxembourg Institute of Socio-Economic Research (LISER)
Maison des Sciences Humaines
11, Porte des Sciences
L-4366 Esch-sur-Alzette / Belval
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This paper examines the impact of progressive radio programming on driving societal change during the early period of desegregation in post-World War II United States. Specifically, we investigate the influence of the popular radio show ``The Adventures of Superman" on promoting tolerance and exposing the bigotry of the Ku Klux Klan (KKK) in 1946. Using advanced radio propagation models, we map the broadcast's exposure and analyse its effect on various socioeconomic outcomes. We find that counties with higher exposure to the broadcast experienced a significant decrease in support for KKK-affiliated political candidates and opponents of civil rights. Moreover, individuals potentially exposed to the Superman storyline during their youth exhibited more progressive views on civil rights later in life. Additionally, we explore the long-term impact of the radio coverage by examining outcomes at the county level in 1964, such as the presence of active KKK branches, membership in the NAACP, and accessibility of non-discriminatory services for African Americans listed in the "Negro Motorist Green Books". We find significant and progressive effects on all analysed outcomes. These results underscore the potential of progressive radio programming as a catalyst for social change and contribute to our understanding of how media shapes societal attitudes and beliefs.