You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Sean Spicer’s Casting Explained? Red States Love ‘Dancing With the Stars’

ABC faced backlash this week after casting former White House press secretary Sean Spicer on “Dancing with the Stars.” But that outrage might actually spice up the dancing competition’s dwindling ratings — particularly in Trump Country.

Dancing with the Stars” has faced a relatively alarming decline in ratings over the past two cycles, falling 32% among adults 18-49 last season — from an average of 1.37 in 2017 to 0.93 in 2018 season. The show was in need of a shot in the arm, and the attention over Spicer’s attachment could attract more of the show’s biggest fans.

That’s because, according to Nielsen data obtained by Variety, the region of the country in which “Dancing with the Stars” performs strongest also happens to be one that is a reliable geographic stronghold for Spicer’s former employer: Red-state America.

Last season, “Dancing with the Stars” — which finished airing in Nov. 2018 — posted its best figures in the East Central territory of the United States with a 126 index score (a score of 100 represents an average concentration of viewership) and a 1.20 rating in the 18-49 demographic. Nielsen defines that region as containing Indiana, West Virginia, Kentucky, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Michigan — all of which are states that voted for Donald Trump in the 2016 presidential election.

The next highest index score by region was the Northeast (Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, District of Columbia, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont and Virginia), with a 104 and a 0.99 rating, while the region that scored the lowest was the Pacific (Alaska, Arizona, California, Hawaii, Idaho, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, and Washington), with a score of 78 and an average rating of 0.74.

Nielsen data also shows that “Dancing with the Stars” registers a stronger performance in suburban and rural counties, and a weaker one in urban counties.

Season 27 performed strongest in category B counties (counties with a population over 150,000) with a 1.01 average 18-49 rating and a 106 index score. Next came the category C and D counties (counties which have a population of over 40,000 or don’t fall under any of the other categories), where the show scored a 0.97 average rating and a 103 index score. Behind all of them were the category A counties (located in the 25 largest U.S. cities), with a 0.90 rating and a below average 94 index score.

The show also does far better with white viewers than it does with African American viewers. Last year, “Dancing with the Stars” scored a 0.66 average 18-49 rating and a 69 index score in homes deemed by Nielsen to have an African American head of household. Conversely, in homes which Nielsen deemed to have a white head of household, the show scored a 1.10 rating and a 115 index score. For comparison, in the 2016 election, Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton won the black vote by a substantial 80 points (88% to 8%), according to the Pew Research Center.

Of the 10 markets around the country in which “Dancing with the Stars” performed best last season, eight are located in states that voted for Trump in the last election. The market in which “Dancing with the Stars” performed strongest last season was West Palm Beach, Fla., which coincidentally is the market that contains Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago residence.

“Dancing with the Stars'” conservative fanbase might also explain why Spicer is just the latest in a long line of right-wing and Republican contestants, including Tucker Carlson, Tom DeLay and Rick Perry.

Casting Spicer has boosted the amount of attention being paid to the show and may well give “Dancing with the Stars” an initial ratings jolt thanks to audience curiosity in how the former Trump spokesperson performs. However, it remains to be seen if the parts of the country and demos that have traditionally watched the show will be driven to tune in in greater numbers to see a man who lasted only six months in the Trump administration dance the cha-cha-cha.

More TV


    Beta Films Sells ‘Arde Madrid’ in the U.S., France, Brazil and Switzerland

    Jan Motjo’s Beta Films has found new broadcast homes for the Movistar Plus original series “Arde Madrid,” which won the Rose d’Or-Award for Best Comedy or Drama this past Sunday in London. The Virginia-based MHz Networks will broadcast the series in the U.S., France Televisions in France, HBO in Brazil and Teleclub in Switzerland. According [...]

  • Finn Jones Pico Alexander

    'Dickinson' Season 2 Adds Finn Jones, Pico Alexander

    The second season of Apple’s period comedy “Dickinson” has cast Finn Jones and Pico Alexander. Jones will star as Samuel Bowles, described as an energetic and magnetic newspaper editor. Alexander will play Henry “Ship” Shipley, a dropout of Amherst College and a boarder with the Dickinsons. Jones is best known for playing Loras Tyrell during most [...]

  • Weeknd

    Watch The Weeknd Perform 'Heartless' on 'The Late Show with Stephen Colbert'

    The Weeknd channeled major Michael Jackson and Prince vibes for his first ever performance of recent single “Heartless” on “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.” Dressed in a red retro suit and dancing in the backstage hallways of the Ed Sullivan Theater, the three-time Grammy-Award winner had some fun with the impromptu music video, his [...]

  • Abby McEnany as Abby in WORK

    TV Review: Showtime's 'Work in Progress'

    There’s never a second that Abby (co-creator Abby McEnany) is unaware of all the things that make her different from the characters we’re used to seeing on TV, let alone those that typically get to anchor their own shows. She’s a butch “queer fat dyke” (her words) with OCD whose deep insecurity about all the [...]

  • Snooki Jersey Shore

    Nicole 'Snooki' Polizzi Says She's 'Retiring' From 'Jersey Shore'

    The fist-pumping and GTL days are over. Nicole Polizzi — aka Snooki — says she’s retiring from “Jersey Shore.” “I am retiring from ‘Jersey Shore,'” Snooki said on Friday’s episode of her iHeartRadio podcast, “It’s Happening With Snooki & Joey.” “I am not coming back for ‘Jersey Shore’ Season 4, if there is one. The [...]

  • Showtime Lakers book cover

    1980s Los Angeles Lakers Drama Scores Series Order at HBO

    HBO has given out a series order to the untitled one-hour drama about the Los Angeles Lakers in the 1980s. The project had originally been ordered to pilot at the premium cabler back in April. The show is described as chronicling the professional and personal lives of the 1980s Los Angeles Lakers, one of sports’ [...]

  • Comedy Central Refinery29

    Comedy Central and Refinery29 Team for Two All-Female Digital Series (EXCLUSIVE)

    Comedy Central and Refinery29 have signed a digital content partnership to produce two comedy series featuring an all-female lineup of comedians, Variety has learned exclusively. Slated to premiere spring 2020, the series will be co-branded and distributed on both Comedy Central and Refinery29’s digital platforms. While neither series is being eyed for a linear run at present, [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content