Friday, November 12, 2010

Remote Control Politics

 Hollywood Reporter takes note of a study that shows Republicans and Democrats have very different viewing habits:

Doug Mataconis in Below the Beltway reports:

The top scoring shows on each list are no surprise, of course. That Glenn Beck is hugely popular among Republicans and Keith Olberman is similarly popular among Democrats but not vice versa. What’s more surprising, really, is that there’s no correlation at all among the Top 15 shows in either list. It’s as stark a difference as you see in reports about viewing habits among African-Americans versus those for the population as a whole, although that particular disparity has become less apparent since the advent of shows like American Idol, which have broad cross- racial appeal.  What explains the apparent disparity in viewing habits based on (self-reported) political ideology then?

One theory is that the disparity is a reflection of demographic differences. People who self-identify as Democrats tend to skew younger, urban, and college educated. The types of television shows that they’d be attracted to would reflect that demography. Combine that with the fact that cable television gives people so many more choices than those that existed even thirty years ago, and the difference seems easy to explain:

What has changed is the explosion on cable that has allowed networks to appeal to more specific viewpoints, from Comedy Central’s The Daily Show With Jon Stewart to Fox News’ Glenn Beck. Moreover, if you’re a liberal viewer in a major city (which typically correlates with higher education) and you have such titles as Mad Men and Dexter to watch each week, are you going to also be interested in seeing a paint-by-numbers crime procedural on broadcast or a laugh-track-boosted sitcom? On the scripted side, at least, the explosion of complex dramas on cable may have ceded some of the broadcast ground to what one might label Republican tastes.

In other words, this phenomenon is just a reflection of the fragmentation of broadcast media, as is the fact that the only telecasts that make the list of the most watched television broadcasts anymore are Super Bowl broadcasts. There are more choices out there and they’re expanding every day. People are going to watch what appeals to them whether that’s on the basis of demography, education, ethnicity, or political ideology.