Voting With Your Remote Control


Friday, March 09, 2012

Pawn Stars Glee Pawn Stars rated favorably with Republican viewers, while Democrats preferred Glee (Courtesy of History/20th Century Fox)

We’ve always heard the television brought Americans together. Now a lot of what’s on just makes us mad at each other. Sociologist Max Kilger says you can tell a person’s politics by the television they watch. If you’re a CSI junkie, you likely vote conservative: “It’s got good structure. It’s got good closure. There’s often a lot of decisiveness about what action should be to be taken.” If you like Weeds, you’re probably a liberal: “Liberal comedies tend to either mock traditional things or produce unusual or unexpected kinds of situations.”  

Kilger works for the consumer research group Experian Simmons. The firm gathers data about our TV viewing habits, information they sell to advertisers. Experian Simmons recently put out a report about how the shows people watched correlated with their political sentiments.

Quiz: What do your TV viewing habits say about your politics?

Studio 360’s Eric Molinsky decided to do his own experiment. He submitted his test subjects — one liberal, one conservative — to a battery of television shows, from The Bachelor to Nurse Jackie.

Reality shows that rate high with liberals include Jersey Shore, but Debbie, our liberal subject, bridled at Ice Road Truckers, in which drivers haul large loads along dangerous highways. “It reminds me of the way many of the arcade games are set up,” she says, “where they introduce characters that are going to fight and you’re supposed to choose one of them.”

Dave, the conservative viewer, finally called the experiment during Glee, the comedy in which social outcasts sing and dance their way through high school. “I definitely don’t like shows that I feel are very snarky or mocking of people living ordinary lives,” he explains.

There are still shows that audiences left, right, and center can agree on; Experian Simmons’ study noted House for its wide appeal. Too bad it’s in its final season.  

See more findings from Experian Simmons' study

    Music Playlist
  1. 30 Rock Theme
    Label: NBC
  2. Castle Theme
    Label: ABC
  3. Little Boxes
    Artist: Malvina Reynolds
    Album: Weeds: Music from the Original Series
    Label: Rykodisc
    Purchase: Amazon
  4. Ice Road Truckers Theme
    Label: The History Channel
  5. Dexter Theme
    Label: Showtime
  6. The Bachelor Theme
    Label: ABC
  7. Vogue (Glee Cast Version)
    Album: Glee: The Music, The Power of Madonna
    Label: Columbia
    Purchase: Amazon
  8. CSI Theme
    Label: CBS
  9. Hawaii Five-0
    Label: CBS
  10. All in the Family Theme
    Label: CBS


Eric Molinsky

Comments [29]

Liz from Middletown CT

This Quiz is terribly flawed. Im in no way a conservative, yet based on my program choices, your algorithms stated i was a conservative. Perhaps someone needs to update the programs or offer other choices. 75 percent of the programs on this quiz were completely unfamiliar.

Jun. 14 2012 08:56 PM
GillianB from NY

According to this breakdown of shows, I am a Republican! LOL ;-)

After all, I watch 12 of the "right wing" shows, 4 of the Liberal ones, and only 2 of the Moderate or swinger shows.

What a crock! Even given the fact that Gary Sinese and Tom Selleck are decidedly to the right, I watch shows because they are good, or entertaining, or informative and not because of the politics of the staff ... on screen or off. A dead body is a dead body, regardless of politics.

Mar. 21 2012 05:00 PM

What am I if I ONLY watch [H]OUSE?

Mar. 14 2012 02:37 AM
Michael Chlanda from Saint Louis, MO

I like shows like CSI, all of them, Blue Bloods, the NCIS shows; Criminal Minds, 48 Hrs (the show), and like Debra, from Seattle, I'm politically moderate to left; a lifelong Democrat, and I think most "reality" shows are anything but reality. [These shows are mostly egos in conflict.] Everyone has his or her opinion. That's what makes our nation (so far) what it is. Voltaire-"I may disagree with what you say, but I'll defend to the death your right to say it". Words to that effect.

Mar. 12 2012 04:00 PM
Debra from Seattle

Why is it people are always trying to pigeonhole people by certain preferences?

I hate reality shows and like CSI, Blue Bloods, the Mentalist, NCIS, and NCIS:LA, but I also like comedies like 2 and a Half Men, the Daily Show and PBS shows like Downton Abbey. I am a liberal and would never in a million years vote Republican.

You cannot base a person's TV viewing on the shows they watch. A lot depends on the household, especially if one is single or has kids. There are many variables.

I think the whole survey shows you how some people think America has devolved into a bunch of followers and people chasing fads. Not everyone.

Mar. 12 2012 02:36 AM
Brian from Salt Lake City

according to their official site, approximately 25,000 US adults were surveyed. here is a link to the methodology behind their study:

also, don't be judging their study based on the quiz applied by this site. the quiz is not affiliated with the actual research group. similarly, just because your preferences are opposite to the results, that does not make the results flawed. it only means you don't share the majority tastes of your demographic. i am a liberal homosexual so i should love Glee, but i hate that show. however, nearly all my gay friends, conservative or liberal, love it.

Mar. 11 2012 06:24 PM

This is a terrible test and tells me absolutely nothing. I skipped most of them because I wouldn't watch any of them. I consider myself liberal and I would never watch Jersey Shore.

Mar. 11 2012 06:14 PM
Betty from Manhattan

I wasn't asked my political affiliation.

Mar. 11 2012 03:42 PM
Andrea from Boston, MA

I'm with all these other "left-leaning" people. According to your "data," I should be conservative based on the shows I watch on your list. Others were not on my radar, and shows I do watch were not included.

Mar. 11 2012 02:39 PM
Kathy from New York City

This study seems to suffer from a way-too-small survey sample—at least the one discussed in the program segment, which was just two people. How many people in the Experian Simmons sample? At any rate, it was absurdly off. I have friends who are conservative, liberal, moderate, and who-knows-what, and our tastes are all over the place. Plus the list of shows in the chart showing the conservative-liberal-moderate categories were missing so many shows.

I don't think people can be pigeon-holed so easily. As the old folks used to say when I was a kid, "There's no accounting for taste."

Mar. 11 2012 02:33 PM
Hazel Feldman from Manhattan

I think of myself as liberal in most matters. Yet my viewing doesn't seem to complement the discussed research. My two favorite "serious" shows are "The Good Wife" and "Harry's Law." For fun I enjoy "Modern Family," "The Middle" and "Parenthood." The rest of of weekly viewing is on PBS. Cannot miss "The Newshour" and "Washington Week." Sunday mornings, I either watch or tape "CBS News Sunday Morning." Evenings I catch "60 Minutes." So that's about it. By the way, I admit I love Antenna TV and often will tape "Father Knows Best!" Now you can make fun of me, I don't mind! If pressed to make a choice, I would rather keep my radio and give up TV. Love most programs on WNYC/NPR/BBC etc.

Mar. 11 2012 11:55 AM
YahooSirius from UWS

i hate to say it but this entry got me all wrong. I'm abiut as lefty as they come and according to this story I shuld be a ragng conservative. I hate Glee, I love Ice road Truckers. I despise reality TV but to claim that liberals gravitate towards Jersey Shore is nothing short of insulting. Really insulting. CSI is one of my favorite shiws, as is House. I don't really know what other liberals I know personally watch, but this guy got me completely wrong.

Mar. 11 2012 11:26 AM
Larry Zellers from Burgettstown, PA

In going through this quiz there were only 2 shows that I watch once in awhile. I am reminded how bad television shows are these days. The writing for most of today's shows is just terrible no one knows how to tell an interesting story with out juvenile jokes and other stuff. Bad TV Bad TV Bad writers Bad writers. Thank God for Turner Classics.

Mar. 11 2012 10:31 AM
Adam Fuller

So who watches science fiction? I don't currently have a TV, and most of the good shows recently aren't on the air anymore, but I do wonder what the standard political persuasion of Stargate, Firefly, and Star Trek fans is.

Mar. 11 2012 12:12 AM
Christopher from Hoboken, NJ

Definitely does not work for me. I'm about as far left as you can be in American politics, and I never watch comedies and love CSI. I also like NCIS, even though I find most of the characters detestable, and am offended when Gibbs tortures a suspect, as he did in the most recent ep I saw. I never watch "reality" TV at all, it being utter trash in almost all cases (OK, I did watch Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, but that was the last reality show I watched).

Most of the shows presented in the quiz were things I'd never watch. In fact, of the 30 shows presented, I watch two regularly and have EVER watched two more. Found a total of four shows I watch on the long list; most of the shows I watch aren't on the list at all.

Mar. 10 2012 05:13 PM

I have to agree with Laura Lee, and I am so far left I probably don't fit today's idea of "liberal." But I came out as far to the conservative side of the scoring as possible. I also had to skip at least three of the questions as I've never watched any of the shows in those questions.

I enjoy CSI at times, miss the "real" Law & Order a lot (altho' it did seem to become more rigid about dealing with justice as the series went on), love Fringe and several other scifi tilting shows which don't seem to make it long term.

I watch broadcast dramas differently than I watch most PBS dramas: I can surf the web, read blogs, write comments while watching a lot of the shows which are more formulaic since I know if I miss something it won't affect how I understand what's going on. That was not true with Lost, however; that series I had to pay close attention to. Plus I reveled in the light, colors of the ocean, the locales for that series, along with thoroughly enjoying the characters.

I still set time aside to actually pay attention to The Good Wife and find the beginning of The Firm deeply involving -- but I get the feeling ABC isn't really into it. ABC has a series from Canada about a Canadian hospital in Iraq (or was it Afghanistan?) which I found intriguing. I got involved in that, but then ABC just ripped it out of its schedule.

I know lots of people who will not watch programs with a long story arc until the series has finished an entire season. The don't want to spend time, get involved in it, then find the network begins to put the program on different nights, just not have it on for a few weeks, then abruptly kill it.

Oh, and even the BBC is producing dramas which are less deeply involving, have less character development, and, even with high production values, can "jump the shark" in terms of losing credibility. Yes, that's Downton Abby.

Mar. 10 2012 04:48 PM
Jake Wood from Lafayette, IN

Listening to the beginning of this story I looked around at my apartment: maps, clocks, everything is in its place but there's really waa-ay too much of it. I watch Castle and Alcatraz and Fringe. I have Battlestar Galactica on the shelf next to the X-Files. And of course I listen to NPR - on line - WNYC sounds good in Indiana, too. Maybe people who listen to this program just like to push the sides of the pigeon holes?

Mar. 10 2012 04:27 PM
susan from Massachusetts

I found the information interesting but not accurate as it pertains to my TV watching, unless you trade The Bachelor for the Food Network, and CSI for NCIS and Bones. I"m interested to see how this moderate will score on the quiz.

Mar. 10 2012 04:24 PM
Julia Pfaff from Virginia

I find it interesting that there are no science fiction choices. When I look at the top 25 lists only 8 of the 75 shows on the list have I even seen.

Mar. 10 2012 03:28 PM
Stephen Rockower from Bethesda, MD

Hey, we listen to RADIO!!! NPR!!! We don't watch TELEVISION! Well, maybe some MSNBC...

Mar. 10 2012 03:05 PM
Admiral Hall from Sterling Va.

I came out a stark raving conservative according to this test. They did not ask me about the 3-4 hours a day I watch MSNBC. Rachel Maddow and Keith Olberman are my favorite characters (reporters)on television. I also go to mass every Sunday and believe governments have no right infringing on women health issues.

Mar. 10 2012 03:02 PM
Jenny from Studio 360

Alan --

We actually designed the game (not Max Kilger) based on the complete survey results, which Experian asked that we not make available. The Office did rank high among conservatives, just not high enough to make the Top 25 list that we published here on the site. When we were making the quiz, we were trying to compare like-ish shows, which is why we dug into Experian's more nuanced data (the stuff that's not available publicly).

But I/we see why it looks incongruous. Sorry for that. We were hoping to make a fun quiz, a game really -- I hope that even with that curveball, you were able to enjoy it.

Mar. 10 2012 12:12 PM
Tiago from Portugal

This is way more subjective than Mr. Kilger would have us believe. You would have to take into account the viewer's gender and personality and the shows' own entertainment value. In the quiz I clearly turned out to be a conservative, which I'm not, much less by American standards.

BTW, the quiz should have a 4th option: neither of these. I wouldn't be caught dead watching "America's next top model", "The Bachelorette" or "Dancing with the stars". Since I had to choose one, ultimately my choice swayed my categorization further into "conservative".

Mar. 09 2012 07:49 PM
Alan from Seattle

I think Mr. Kilger needs to go back to the drawing board on this. Picking out shows that I watch from the conservative/liberal/moderates lists, there was an even mix of conservative and liberal shows and almost no moderate shows.

BTW, is 'The Office' a conservative show or a liberal show? On the lists, it is a liberal show, but it seems to primarily be a conservative show in the quiz.

Mar. 09 2012 05:05 PM
Jenny from Studio 360

And we're live with the quiz/game! Again, thanks for your patience.

Mar. 09 2012 04:37 PM
Jenny from Studio 360

Hi Zak -- We've had a couple technical hiccups with our quiz, but we're minutes away from making it live. Thanks for your patience!

Mar. 09 2012 04:06 PM
Zak Zebrowski

What, quiz coming "soon"? Why advertize it in the podcast if it's not available? ... Otherwise, it was a very interesting segment.

Mar. 09 2012 02:50 PM

I'm curious what shows Dave thinks "mock people living ordinary lives." I am liberal and I enjoy shows like Raising Hope, Parks and Rec, and The Middle. I wonder if he thinks these shows mock average Americans.

Mar. 09 2012 01:52 PM
Laura Lee

I'm generally socially and politically liberal and I like CSI and dislike Glee. (Bland cartoon social categories.) Do liberals really like Jersey Shore?

Mar. 09 2012 10:58 AM

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