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What Your TV Preferences Say About Your Politics

The political winds in the United States shifted sharply to the right earlier this month with Republicans making gains across the board. While political party affiliation was a strong indication of a candidate’s success in the election, we wondered: Can the political leaning of a TV show’s audience determine the success of the program? The answer is yes.

Experian Simmons examined the political party registrations of viewers of over 700 television programs measured in the Spring 2010 Simmons National Consumer study. We found that registered Republicans and Democrats, indeed, have different preferences in entertainment programs. But especially noticeable was the preponderance of highly rated Nielsen programs at the top of the Republican list. Not all shows that skew Republican are ratings darlings, of course, but programmers should take note of this fact if ratings are their foremost goal.

Republicans:

When looking at programs on broadcast TV, we see that Republicans tend to gravitate towards reality shows that center on some sort of competition. In fact, Republicans are 32% more likely to watch The Amazing Race on CBS than the average American adult. They’re also 24% more likely to watch American Idol on Fox and 18% more likely to watch America’s Got Talent on NBC. The Simmons data provides some evidence that it’s the competitive angle of these shows that is attracting Republicans. Specifically, Republicans are fully 29% more likely than the average adult to watch the results show of Dancing with the Stars on ABC and just 17% more likely to watch the non-results episodes of the same show.

Republicans tend to gravitate towards reality shows that center on some sort of competition.

When it comes to cable entertainment programs, Republicans tend to prefer lifestyle programs on HGTV and TLC. Republicans are also found in high concentrations among many adventure/documentary show audiences, like Ice Road Truckers on History and Deadliest Catch on Discovery. And finally, big families are big draws for Republicans with 18 Kids and Counting and Jon & Kate Plus 8, both on TLC, attracting more than average concentrations of Republican viewers.

Top indexing Republican NETWORK
programs (non-news, non-music)
Republican Index Top indexing Republican CABLE
programs (non-news, non-music)
Republican Index
THE AMAZING RACE (CBS) 132 PROPERTY VIRGINS (HGTV) 125
DANCING WITH THE STARS RESULTS SHOW(ABC) 129 MODERN MARVELS (HISTORY) 121
MODERN FAMILY (ABC) 124 COLOR SPLASH (HGTV) 120
AMERICAN IDOL (FOX) 122 UNSELLABLES (HGTV) 120
V (ABC) 122 LEVERAGE (TNT) 118
THE BIG BANG THEORY (CBS) 119 18 KIDS AND COUNTING (TLC) 116
THE GOOD WIFE (CBS) 119 DEAR GENEVIEVE (HGTV) 116
THE MENTALIST (CBS) 119 WHAT NOT TO WEAR (TLC) 116
AMERICA’S GOT TALENT (NBC) 118 DINERS, DRIVE-INS & DIVES (FOOD NETWORK) 115
SURVIVOR (CBS) 118 HOUSE HUNTERS (HGTV) 115
DANCING WITH THE STARS (ABC) 117 INCOME PROPERTY (HGTV) 114
DESPERATE HOUSEWIVES (ABC) 116 OPERATION REPO (TRU TV) 114
NCIS (CBS) 115 WHITE COLLAR (USA) 114
HUMAN TARGET (FOX) 114 ICE ROAD TRUCKERS (HISTORY) 112
LIE TO ME (FOX) 114 PAWN STARS (HISTORY) 112
THE BACHELOR (ABC) 114 SAY YES TO THE DRESS (TLC) 111
ANTIQUES ROADSHOW (PBS) 113 DIRTY JOBS (DISCOVERY) 110
CASTLE (ABC) 113 MYTHBUSTERS (DISCOVERY) 109
HOW I MET YOUR MOTHER (CBS) 113 JON & KATE PLUS 8 (TLC) 106
THE BACHELORETTE (ABC) 113 AMERICAN LOGGERS (DISCOVERY) 105
EXTREME MAKEOVER: HOME EDITION (ABC) 112 IN PLAIN SIGHT (USA) 104
NCIS: LOS ANGELES (CBS) 112 THROWDOWN WITH BOBBY FLAY (FOOD NETWORK) 104
TWO AND A HALF MEN (CBS) 112 DEADLIEST CATCH (DISCOVERY) 103
FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS (NBC) 111 MAN VS. WILD (DISCOVERY) 103
CELEBRITY APPRENTICE (NBC) 109 THE SMOKING GUN PRESENTS:WORLD’S DUMBEST (TRU TV) 103

Democrats:

On the left side of the broadcast dial, we see that registered Democrats tend to be drawn to crime and legal dramas like Law & Order and Law & Order: SVU, both on NBC. We also see higher concentrations of Democrats tuning into broadcast shows featuring female characters playing central or leading roles, such as Brothers & Sisters on ABC, Medium on CBS, 30 Rock on NBC and the Good Wife on CBS. The Good Wife, actually, has higher than average concentrations of both registered Democrats and registered Republicans. Given that the program is about the wife of a politician, it’s not such a surprise that registered voters from both sides of the aisle tune in.

We also see higher concentrations of Democrats tuning into broadcast shows featuring female characters playing central or leading roles.

On cable, we see high concentrations of registered Democrats tuning into character-driven dramas, like Dexter and United States of Tara, both on Showtime. Democrats also flock in disproportionate numbers to cable reality shows. But unlike the competitive reality shows favored by Republicans, Democrats prefer observational reality shows where they get to peer into the lives of celebrities or unique and extraordinary people.

Top indexing Democrat NETWORK
programs (non-news, non-music)
Democrat Index Top indexing Democrat CABLE
programs (non-news, non-music)
Democrat Index
FLASHPOINT (CBS) 145 TYLER PERRY’S MEET THE BROWNS (TBS) 189
HOMETIME (PBS) 143 HOUSE OF PAYNE (TBS) 181
90210 (CW) 140 REAL TIME WITH BILL MAHER (HBO) 165
WIFE SWAP (ABC) 136 SNAPPED (OXYGEN) 162
AMERICA’S NEXT TOP MODEL (CW) 135 SHERRI (LIFETIME) 153
NOVA (PBS) 133 HAWTHORNE (TNT) 153
LAW & ORDER (NBC) 132 LIVE FROM THE RED CARPET (E!) 149
SMALLVILLE (CW) 131 DEXTER (SHOWTIME) 147
WHO DO YOU THINK YOU ARE? (NBC) 130 UGLY AMERICANS (COMEDY CENTRAL) 147
BROTHERS & SISTERS (ABC) 127 KOURTNEY & KHLOE TAKE MIAMI (E!) 146
PRIVATE PRACTICE (ABC) 127 TODDLERS & TIARAS (TLC) 145
MEDIUM (CBS) 126 UNITED STATES OF TARA (SHOWTIME) 144
TRUE BEAUTY (ABC) 126 MEET THE NATIVES (TRAVEL CHANNEL) 144
AMERICA’S MOST WANTED (FOX) 126 BRIDEZILLAS (WE TV) 143
30 ROCK (NBC) 126 TOP CHEF MASTERS (BRAVO) 142
VICTORY GARDEN (PBS) 126 WOMEN BEHIND BARS (WE TV) 142
THE GOOD WIFE (CBS) 124 THE BOONDOCKS: ADULT SWIM(CARTOON NETWRK) 142
ONE TREE HILL (CW) 124 TABATHA’S SALON TAKEOVER (BRAVO) 140
NEW YANKEE WORKSHOP (PBS) 122 DOWN HOME WITH THE NEELYS (FOOD NETWORK) 140
LAW & ORDER: SVU (NBC) 122 BAD GIRLS CLUB (OXYGEN) 138
MASTERPIECE (PBS) 122 SCARE TACTICS (SYFY) 136
COMMUNITY (NBC) 122 MILLION DOLLAR LISTING (BRAVO) 135
BIG BROTHER (CBS) 121 MODELS OF THE RUNWAY (LIFETIME) 135
GOSSIP GIRL (CW) 120 TORI & DEAN: HOME SWEET HOLLYWOOD (OXYGEN) 133
FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS (NBC) 119 DESTINATION TRUTH (SYFY) 132

For more information about the in-depth consumer behaviors, attitudes, lifestyles, brands and media measured in the Simmons National Consumer Study, visit our website.