Divided We Stand

America’s political divide translates not just at the ballot box, but at the box office and the living room and just about anywhere there’s entertainment.

That’s perhaps the simplest, and not entirely surprising, conclusion from an extensive new project from the Norman Lear Center and Zogby International. Today they unveiled the results of a new poll of almost 4,000 people that showed that everything from TV, movies and music preferences vary according to political stripes.

Much of it confirms what we’ve already suspected: Conservatives are a NASCAR-loving, Rush-induced, my-way-or-the highway bunch that don’t need no artsy fartsy stuff and are appalled by all the smut on TV. So appalled that they’re not beyond seeing it to believe it.

Liberals are the effete, public TV-loving snob intellects who are surely not going to deign to watch anything that would offer prize money. Even worse, they listen to that category known as “world music.”

O.K., so these are very broad strokes, but the study concludes: “It’s almost like the reds and the blues are living in parallel universes.”

Liberals, for example, are more likely to watch NBC. Conservatives prefer Fox News Channel as well as Fox Broadcasting. The latter finding is interesting: As the home of “The Simpsons” and “Family Guy” and a few shameless reality shows, Fox Broadcasting apparently belies that other finding that conservatives also “think a lot of programming is in bad taste and doesn’t reflect their values.” Or maybe that view has to come from somewhere.

Conservatives also don’t much like to go to the movies, don’t like much contemporary music and aren’t big book readers. Their favorite music is classical, with country and gospel also among their preferences. They like to watch sports — particularly football and auto racing. “They think that fictional TV shows and movies are politically biased, and they believe they can predict a person’s politics if they know the person’s entertainment preferences,” the polling showed.

Liberals shy away from game shows and reality shows — bad news during a strike —but love “60 Minutes,” “Brothers and Sisters,” PBS, HBO, Comedy Central and “The Daily Show.” They like going to the movies, the theater, museums and galleries — although they still like football. And they enjoy entertainment with political themes, as some 68% seek it out (perhaps “Lions for Lambs” was a bit too much even for this group).

Moderates, meanwhile, like all of those police procedurals, game shows and reality programs. They do watch Fox News, and more than liberals and conservatives, like daytime and children’s programming and self-help books.

That’s a finding could be encouragement for the Obama campaign and its Oprah endorsement: “Our survey analysis shows moderates tend not to seek out entertainment with a political edge, so when they take a dose of politics, it may go down better when administered by such a non political bona fide star. It is also important to note that 62% of moderates are women, which could also help intensify the Oprah endorsement.”

One other finding perhaps explains why “Rush Limbaugh” continues to thrive while Air America has had its struggles: Liberals are much more likely than conservatives to listen to commentary and entertainment that they disagree with. While 22% of conservatives said that they never enjoy entertainment that reflects values other than their own, only 7% of liberals felt the same way.

So where are the commonalities? “House” was pretty non-partisan, with an almost equal number of adherents across the spectrum. Also in that category were news, football, “The Da Vinci Code,” classical music and the video game “Mario.”

The complete results are here.


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