Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Favorite TV Shows: Democrats vs. Republicans

You won't often see me write these words, but Entertainment Weekly has a fascinating column today about the favorite TV programs of Democrats and Republicans.  Like in politics, they don't agree.  And the differences really get to very different approaches to how they understand the world.

I don't want to repeat the list (use the link above), but the results are a bit scary if you're of a conservative or Republican state of mind.  Sarcasm and what I'd call smarter (more highbrow?) TV appeals more to Dems (30 Rock, The Daily Show, It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia) while GOPers like a bit more lowbrow stuff (The Bachelor, Swamp Loggers, Only in America with Larry the Cable Guy).  Both like reality TV programs, just different ones.

Thankfully, Republicans also like such good programming as Mythbusters -- funny given the two hosts appeared in the rally by Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert (who Republicans don't like).  And not all Dem choices are necessarily good TV (best bad examples, Glee and The View).

And there are a lot of programs listed I know nothing about, probably because I'm not as much of a TV guy as I used to be.  Treme on HBO, for example.  Dems love show about rebuilding a working class New Orleans neighborhood, but for Republicans it doesn't even show up statistically.  Never seen it myself.  Modern Family is supposed to be excellent but I've never seen it either.  Dems love it, GOPers not as much.

On the story, you really want to click through to the second page because it moves from the partisan divide of favorites to the partisan divide of least favorites. 
  • Republicans hate Weeds (understandable), South Park (ditto), Jersey Shore (who doesn't?),  and The Walking Dead (which I don't get, with the Apocalypse and all). 
  • Democrats hate Swamp Loggers (there's a show about logging in swamps?  Why?), The Price is Right (okay, no Bob Barker), all of the "ghost" shows, The Ultimate Fighter (ya don't like it when people hit and kick people on the ground?  C'mon!), and COPS (because, of course, you're against law and order).
I always tell my journalism students that you can tell a lot about a person by asking what television programs they watch or what magazines they read.  Indeed, often at trials a lawyer will ask just that before agreeing for a person to serve on a jury.  TV shows, unfortunately, tell a lot about the person -- such as if you watch American Idol or even worse, Dancing with the Stars, how smart can you really be? 

But this EW column gets at the partisan divide in a completely different way.  It's about worldviews.  GOP/conservatives really like the gritty reality shows where people work, and work hard (logging in swamps).  Democrats/liberals like more intellectual heft, or at least intellectual playfulness and sarcasm, a more white-collar touch to their shows (The Office).  I did some worldview research back in my grad student days but a lot of that has passed me on by, but there's probably a good way to analyze these programming choices along those lines.  Any budding mass comm scholars out there, get to  it.

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