Actually Reading Charts

One of the great benefits of a good education that you may only rarely realize you’ve received is a careful cynicism where new information is concerned. Not a knee-jerk, anti-whatever response but the measured withholding of judgment for those precious seconds it takes to double-check that the writer’s conclusions line up with what, in fact, the survey/experiment/analysis found out.

What brought this up is the new Experian survey of Republicans’ and Democrats’ favorite TV shows. Various stories are leading with this graphic:

… follow up with titles like “The Reign of Right-Wing Primetime“, and then proceed to say things like “viewers who vote Republican and identify themselves as conservative are more likely than Democrats to love the biggest hits on TV”. (That’s a typical article, by the way. I’m not trying to pick on it, I just figured it would be easier for all of us if there was only one link.)

So, holding judgment, we look at the list. And what is actually on there? First off, we don’t have any idea what the numbers mean. The list was apparently compiled based on the percentage of viewers who identify with each party, but Glenn Beck’s audience is not 238% Republican. Regardless, the numbers given suggest slim-to-non-existent differences by party in the Republicans’ list (with the exception of political pundit Glenn Beck’s show) and generally larger differences in the Democrats’ list. Additionally, the cutoff number for the Democrats’ list is 117, while the Republicans get 112. Finally, there is some cherry-picking going on here. The Good Wife‘s 124 (Democrat)/119 (Republican ranking should get it on both lists, but it only shows up on the Democrats’. The articles I’ve seen analyzing this study also discuss more shows that don’t show up on these top ten lists, which suggests even more, mmm… selectivity was involved in creating the lists.

Ultimately, what I get out of this list is that, outside of Glenn Beck’s show, Republicans watch popular TV shows. Democrats are likely to watch popular TV shows and also watch more niche programming. Because Democrats are also watching a fair amount of niche programming, it makes sense that they would be less likely to watch the popular shows at the rates Republicans do. From the 30 shows on the two lists, if we take the Republicans’ 112 rating as the low mark, both Democrats and Republicans are watching How I Met Your Mother (113R/112D), Desperate Housewives (116 even), Dancing with the Stars (117R/112D), The Mentalist (119R/116D) and The Good Wife (124D/119R). If I wanted to throw a gross generalization on top of that, I might add that since Democrats have a much lower median income than Republicans they probably have more familiarity with community colleges and therefore a community college-based comedy like Community might be more likely to appeal to them (122D/75R), but that qualified statement is about as far as I’d be willing to go based on the results as given. I kind of want to know how NCIS: Los Angeles did now…

H/T: News for TV Majors

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