Many might think there is an obvious correlation between political leanings and TV preferences but in a new report backed by the Pop Culture Collaborative, the findings were both expected and unexpected. So much that it will make you raise your eyebrows and make you nod and say “Interesting!” whilst stroking your chin.
The Norman Lear Center at USC Annenberg and the futurePerfect Lab released a report today titled Are You What You Watch: Tracking the Political Divide Through TV Preferences which examines the links between our political beliefs, TV viewing habits, and behavior. This report comes a little over a month after the Pop Culture Collaborative backed a study about diversity in TV writers’ rooms. Are You What You Watch builds on top of a similar study which was released a decade ago and it turns out our political ideals and preferences in entertainment have shifted. The report also tracks TV preferences against views on social justice, puts a spotlight on the types of TV people from across the political spectrum are watching, and looks at exactly how we’ve changed over the past 10 years.
Through a combination of study and survey research from the Lear Center and futurePerfect Labs contributed to the report that included the same statistical clustering analysis from 10 years ago which found three ideological groups: Blues, who tend to lean more liberal; Reds, who tend to lean more conservative; and Purples, the swing group. It was found that Blues consume more TV than Reds. In fact, Reds say they don’t watch that much TV but when they are all about the Hallmark, History and Ion channels far and are fans of NCIS and Criminal Minds. Of the three groups, Purples consume the most TV. They tend to take action based on what they learn about politics and social issues from fictional movies and TV. That said, they tend to be inclined to social change campaigns. Purples like The Voice and Dancing with the Stars. They share a common bond with Blues with their liking of Saturday Night Live and Duck Dynasty which is a favorite among Reds.
Some other findings include that fans of The Walking Dead tend to rank immigration as one of the top three issues regardless of their ideology. In terms of TV shows that everyone could agree on, there is an interesting mix. Four shows that unite everyone include America’s Funniest Home Videos, Bones, Criminal Minds and Mythbusters. One show that was also on everyone’s list was Pawn Stars — but for a different reason. The report shows that this is hate-watched among all groups.
Speaking of unlikeable shows, Blues, Reds and Purples were on the same page when it came to least liked shows. These include Keeping Up with the Kardashians, 106 and Park, Pawn Stars, Grey’s Anatomy and Scandal. Oddly enough, the report finds that not liking TV shows can unite ideological groups.
By analyzing this political divide, survey results show Americans have moved closer to the left in the past decade. That said, firm perspectives have swayed to more moderate viewpoints on nine timely issues that are extremely hot right now: environment, regulation of business, privacy around new technologies, public education, guns, marriage, abortion, helping the poor and tax reductions. The resulting data of this report serves as a valuable touchstone for TV writers, studios, storytellers, brands and organizations who are using storytelling for cultural shifts.
Read the full report here.