Monday, August 01, 2016

I’m A Republican (And I Didn’t Even Know It)

I’m a pretty liberal kind of guy. I vote for the NDP (I’m Canadian) and I take for granted things like single payer government health care, gun control and allowing Syrian refugees to immigrate into Canada. However, according to a survey done by E-Poll market research, my TV viewing shows that I am a raging Republican who should be wearing a Trump-Pence T-shirt and be denouncing Ted Cruz for not endorsing the party’s nominee at the convention. Well at least I can get that part right, although probably not for the same reasons as a “real” Republican.

The E-Poll Market Research Poll listed the Top Ten shows preferred by people self-identifying as Democrats and Republicans. According to the methodology section of the survey’s report:

E-Score analyzed more than 750 prime time broadcast, cable and streaming programs among Americans of voting age whose political affiliation is either Republican or Democrat and ranked the results for shows described as "One of My Favorites" by each group.
E-Score Programs is a monthly tracking survey that measures awareness, viewing and perceptions of more than 3,000 US television programs. Surveys are conducted monthly among a representative sample of US viewers with 1,200 respondents per show.
I’m not entirely sure how this particular survey was conducted but I suspect it wasn’t under the most rigourous conditions. Nevertheless it did come up with some interesting results.
Here is a table of the shows preferred by Republicans (in Red) and Democrats (in Blue). Shows in Purple are in the top ten lists of both parties. The shows that I watch regularly are in italics.

Democrats                                          Republicans
Rank Show Network Show Network
1 Game Of Thrones HBO Supernatural CW
2 The Haves and the Have Nots OWN The Walking Dead AMC
3 Supernatural CW Scorpion CBS
4 The Big Bang Theory CBS Arrow CW
5 Suits USA The Flash CW
6 The Walking Dead AMC The Big Bang Theory CBS
7 How To Get Away With Murder ABC NCIS CBS
8 Doctor Who BBCA Blue Bloods CBS
9 Empire FOX Grimm NBC
10 Nashville ABC Last Man Standing ABC

Fifty percent of the shows that I watch are exclusively on the Republican list, while the only Democratic show that I watch is actually bipartisan. Ergo, I am a Republican. Heaven help me. There’s probably a reason for this which I’ll get into later.
The poll offers some findings, the validity of which I’m not sure I can get behind but here they are.
Democrats prefer programs that are:
  • Sexy: The top three shows described by Democrats as “sexy” were Game Of Thrones, The Haves and the Have Nots, Suits
  • Edgy
  • Emotionally involving
  • Ethnically diverse or have strong characters: 3 of the top 10 shows: The Haves and the Have Nots, How to Get Away with Murder, and Empire all have a racially diverse cast and have powerful lead roles for women. This reflects the Democratic viewer who is also typically more diverse, with higher concentration of black and female supporters.
Republicans prefer programs that are:
  • Family-friendly: Half of the top ten shows on the Rebuplican list had more than 25% of respondents describing the shows as "Family Friendly" and air on broadcast television.
  • Funny: Although there are only two outright comedies on the Republican list and one of those is also on the Democratic list.
  • Plot driven or have storylines that involve "good vs. evil": Republicans enjoy clearer "good vs. evil" characters and storylines. They prefer shows featuring superheroes like The Flash, Arrow and the super intelligent team on Scorpion. Two procedural programs – NCIS and Blue Bloods – also have the "good vs. evil" component, as well as skewing slightly older than some other programs in the list.

So here’s what I take from the data as presented:
  • Republicans prefer the broadcast networks almost exclusively – nine of the ten shows on the Republican list are on broadcast networks. The exception is The Walking Dead which is on AMC. By contrast half of the shows on the Democratic list are on broadcast, and one show Game Of Thrones is on premium cable.
  • Republicans prefer shows that are “one and done”; in other words shows where the primary focus is not on a continuing arc, although such an arc may exist in a secondary or tertiary focus. Only one show that the Republican list has an ongoing story arc. At least half of the shows on the Democratic list have ongoing story arcs as a primary focus (Game Of Thrones, The Haves and the Have Nots, Walking Dead, How To Get Away With Murder, Doctor Who, Empire, and Nashville).
  • The question of diversity is an interesting one. The Democratic list has probably the more diverse group, with The Haves and the Have Nots, How To Get Away With Murder and Empire either having a predominantly African-American cast or African-American leads, while How To Get Away With Murder and Nashville have female leads. None of the shows on the Republican list have African-Americans in leading roles, and of the shows that I watch on the Republican list, Scorpion, The Big Bang Theory, and Blue Bloods don’t have any African-Americans in their regular cast (I can’t speak to the shows I don’t watch). But is that an indictment of the taste of Republicans or is it a problem with the casting of these shows.
  • The “law and order” shows. This is a bit of a stretch, but there’s a high percentage of shows that deal with “law and order” in the Republican list. NCIS and Blue Bloods are both overtly about law enforcement; NCIS is about a law enforcement agency while Blue Bloods is about a family of New York cops, including the police commissioner. Scorpion is about what are essentially private contractors working for the Department of Homeland Security. The lead characters in Grimm are cops dealing with supernatural threats, while the leads in The Flash and Arrow are costumed vigilantes working with the police. I think you could even argue that the characters in Supernatural are involved in some sort of protective operation, while The Walking Dead shows what happens after order breaks down.

So that explains, or at least investigates some aspects of the lists. So why do I watch the “Republican” shows that I do? Well Arrow and The Flash are easy. I’ve been a DC Comics fanboy since I was old enough to connect the words and the pictures together. DC, not Marvel. For some reason Spiderman and the Fantastic Four never did it for me. As for Blue Bloods and NCIS, that’s a bit more complicated. I’ve been a fan of both Mark Harmon and Tom Selleck since Selleck did Magnum and Harmon did, well probably Centennial (so not his earliest work in other words; I’m sure I never saw Sam and probably missed 240-Robert and I know I avaoided Flamingo Road on general principle). They were my gateways into their current shows but I’ve stayed because I really like the shows. I like the ensemble cast in NCIS and the way they’ve expanded the Gibbs character to give him a reason for being how he is. I like the ensemble cast in Blue Bloods as well and the fact that the show makes the personal, family lives of the characters not only visible but vital to the show, in repudiation of the Dick Wolf/Law & Order formula in which the characters have no lives outside of work – or at least no lives that we are permitted to know much about. In a way Blue Bloods is a family drama that just happens to be about a family of cops.

The reasons why I don’t watch more “Democratic” shows are a bit more complicated. Game of Thrones is of course on a premium channel although this summer, to coincide with the Olympics, CTV will air the complete first season – uncut – on broadcast TV. The Haves and the Have Nots doesn’t air up here, even though we have our own Oprah Winfrey Network here in Canada. Suits is another basic cable show in the US that I might like if I saw it, but the ways shows like that air in Canada it’s very difficult for me to find where and when it is on. I gave up on How To Get Away With Murder early in the second season when I came to the conclusion that there was absolutely no one on that show that I had any sympathy or empathy for. The subject matter of Nashville simply doesn’t interest me, Pretty much the same thing is true about Empire, and while I tried the first episode of Supernatural (and it has featured one of my favourite character actors, Jim Beaver, who is a scholar and a gentleman in so many ways) I had no desire to stick with it. (By the way, is it just me or are Supernatural and Grimm basically the same show?) As for Doctor Who, I love the series but I share my TV with someone who loathes it, and as most politicians eventually learn – though I’m not sure about some Replublicans in recent years – you’ve got to go along to git along, so I don’t get to see Doctor Who.

So there you have it. My viewing habits say that I’m a Republican, even though I’m just Canadian.


Rick Robinson said...

The survey is faulty; there's no way, in spite of their stated criteria and methodology, to tell political leanings from television shows watched, any more than there would be to tell by what candy bar people preferred or which auto brand they like.

Brent McKee said...

Oh I definitely accept your point, but in truth I don't think it was their point. I suspect that they were more interested in predicting which TV shows you would tend to watch based on your political preference. I sort of reversed it since - as I pointed out - I am a pretty liberal guy, and if I was a citizen of the United States would probably identify as a Democrat.

Still I do question the methodology in that the results and the conclusions that can be drawn from them seem too cut and dried. Why are there no reality shows like The Amazing Race, Survivor, or Duck Dynasty (given that Willie Robinson appeared at the Republican Convention as a Trump supporter - and by the way may have been the sanest person to speak on the first night of the convention - while his father Phil supports Ted Cruz)? Why are 30% of the Republican shows on The CW? Saying that Democrats prefer "sexy, edgy, emotionally involving" shows while Republicans prefer "funny, family friendly, plot driven shows that involve 'good vs. evil'" seems just a bit too pat as an assessment. There's no breakdown of age groups - are the Democrats and Republicans sample balanced by age group or are we talking younger Democrats vs. older Republicans. On the whole the data presented in the survey just doesn't seem complete or "right" somehow.

Todd Mason said...

And one reason the "basic cable" series THE WALKING DEAD might appear on both lists is that it's more popular than nearly all broadcast tv series in the US, or at least was at its height. And, of course, now the medium-sized broadcast network MyNetworkTV or MNT runs repeats in primetime, which probably helps draw a few more people to it who would've missed it otherwise.

It is amusing that the CW, the Edgy Teen network, might be the most Republican-drawing...