America’s cultural divide as evidenced by television viewers

December 27, 2016 • 2:15 pm

The New York Times gave graphic results of a survey (using Facebook and ZIP codes) of how popular an array of 50 U.S. television shows were in different areas of the U.S. The results are more or less as you expect, and display a cultural divide manifested largely by geography. For example, here’s the popularity of “Duck Dynasty” (which I’ve never seen), versus “The Daily Show” (which I see rarely on YouTube). The darker the red, the more popular a show is (the higher ranked in a given area):



And here’s the margin of lead of either Trump and Clinton; the Trump +-margin map follows the popularity of “Duck Dynasty” nicely, even up to Maine.


And, I guess based on my location, the NYT told me what’s popular and not popular in Chicago. (I don’t know what “It’s always sunny in Philadelphia” is about.) It also compared Chicago’s tastes to other places in the U.S, with the expected results.


There are 48 other maps on the NYT site, so go see who shares your tastes in television.

45 thoughts on “America’s cultural divide as evidenced by television viewers

  1. This doesn’t surprise me one bit. And, I really dislike Duck Dynasty. Unfortunately, for me, my young son used to like the show. He gets a kick out of people doing stupid things.

      1. That is certainly stupid, but no. The stupid my son got a kick out of at a certain age was more like slap-stick comedy meets Jackass. Actually I guess in truth he still does, but he’s only 12. Shoot, in truth sometimes I do too, but I don’t have age as an excuse.

  2. I suspect that the viewership for those Apprentice shows clustered close to the Duck Dynasty/16 and Pregnant axis.

    I also suspect that a good deal of Donald Trump’s support is attributable to his being introduced to red America in the role of the all-knowing, omnipotent big-boss-man on a non-reality tv show.

  3. The best two words to describe It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia are “misanthropic comedy.” If you enjoy such comedy, you might just love it (I certainly do). It’s available on Netflix Instant.

    1. I stopped watching after the 3rd or 4th season. I really enjoyed the show, but I usually don’t stick with series for very long. I always considered it “black comedy” but I like “misanthropic comedy” better.

      I live on the West coast, so the map fits my viewing pleasure.

      1. If you have the time, give the seasons you have missed a try. Many of the episodes I consider classics came after your viewing window.

  4. My favorite T.V. shows (not in order):
    Game of Thrones
    The Wire
    Boardwalk Empire
    Larry Sanders Show
    Curb Your Enthusiasm
    True Detective

    Notice a pattern?

        1. I’ll pretty much watch any of the ones I’ve listed for the tenth time before turning to most network fare. In fact I have.

    1. I have never seen any of those shows. But, it may be due to the fact that I don’t get cable or satellite TV. I have relented a bit in my refusal to pay for TV by getting Netflix, which carries a good number decent TV shows.

      1. You can probably get several of the ones I listed through Netflix.

        I prefer paying cash for television of very high quality to enduring inane commercials for a lower quality product – which in my view, is the more painful expense.

    2. Wow, Carl, we have a shared taste in American television.

      For my money, The Wire was apex TV, as densely plotted and morally ambitious as a Russian novel — our American Crime and Punishment.

      And if The Wire was our Dostoevsky, then The Sopranos was our American Shakespeare. Ok, maybe not peak Shakespeare, not Hamlet or Lear or Richard III — not Othello or Macbeth or As You Like It (to mix a comedy in with all that unrelenting tragedy) — but Shakespeare of the next rank, something like Anthony and Carmela … er, I mean, and Cleopatra.

      1. “Wow, Carl, we have a shared taste in American television.”

        Yes, and I think movies too. Politics, not so much, but maybe 50%.

        The Wire has been my top favorite for years, but Game of Thrones is moving up.

        I left out Band of Brothers and The Night Of from my original list, probably some others.

        1. My dad was a POW in WWII. He escaped from Stalag IIB and, once home, married the daughter of the German immigrant lady down the street. Go figure.

          I was in tears watching those old vets being interviewed and telling their real stories behind Band of Brothers. Loved that show.

          1. I watched the first episode earlier today. Probably about my tenth time through. I love the interviews.

            One of my uncles brought home a German bride who had been in the Hitler Youth. She’s still living, closing in on 100. We’ve had some interesting conversations over the years.

    3. After attempting to watch the Sopranos again this year, I have to say that it does not hold up well after time. The Sopranos felt new and exciting at the time of its airing, but now feels largely pedestrian and often stale.

      On the other hand, I’m glad to say that The Wire still feels as fresh and remarkable as the day it was made.

      What did you think of Westworld?

      1. I started Westworld, stopped watching after a couple of episodes, then went back and watched it all the way through. Fantastic cast, but the story line doesn’t appeal to me. Maybe it will grow on me, but as of now it’s not high on my list.

      2. Seeing The Sopranos as “pedestrian” and “stale” may be of a piece with the Seinfeld is Unfunny trope — like seeing Hamlet as just one famous saying after another, strung together with a moldy old palace-intrigue plot.

        1. I’ll lean toward Ken on this one. Though I’ve found fast forward during any scenes with Dr. Melfi, Janice, or Tony’s mother adds to my enjoyment.

        2. No, it’s not that at all. I’m the kind of person who returns to films and shows many, many years later to watch them all over again, and I usually enjoy the experiences as much or more on those repeat viewings. The Sopranos has been almost unique for me in this way. It’s really just that The Sopranos was made at the very beginning of this “golden age of TV,” and TV quality has risen so much since then that there’s no longer much that’s very special about it for me. As a huge film buff, a lot of what I look at in my assessments of pieces is technical (not just direction, cinematography, or writing/structure, but innovation as well), and The Sopranos just doesn’t hold up as well as other shows. Plus, The Sopranos being stale is very, very far from a trope.

          I do love Seinfeld, though.

    4. The Sopranos is a brilliant series, full of biting social commentary, dark humor, great writing and great acting. Gandolfini is sorely missed, though he really never could be anything but Tony Soprano in my mind. Apparently, the show had a pretty strong following among mob types. Gandolfini was told real dons don’t wear shorts after an early BBQ scene, and they incorporated the correction. I think Tony even uses the line somewhere.

      Just finished Game of Thrones, alas. I binged on all six seasons since a few weeks before the election. It helped me cope. Where is our beautiful benevolent Mother of Dragons when we need her here in Westeros?

      Loved Boardwalk Empire and The Wire, too. Yep, there’s definitely a pattern here!

      1. You have excellent taste.

        I find it hard to believe “mob types” liked the Sopranos. It made them look like dumb, petty low lifes. It was Carmine who told Tony in one episode that “Dons don’t wear shorts” or maybe he said it to Johnny Sack about Tony.

        Gandolfini is a good enough actor that you’ll forget Tony Soprano when you see him in another role. Try Crimson Tide – fantastic cast all around.

        I love the fierceness Game of Thrones gives to so many of its female characters.

        1. You don’t even need to leave The Sopranos series to see what great range Gandolfini had as an actor. Consider the “Kevin Finnerty” character he played in Season 6 while Tony was in a coma. (Those episodes weren’t my favorites, but they were great performances by JG.)

          But I agree with you regarding the range he demonstrated in other film roles, too. Think of his romantic lead opposite Julia Louis-Dreyfus in Enough Said, or his portrayal of the CIA director in Zero Dark Thirty.

          I disagree with you, though, about some of the female leads in The Sopranos. I thought Nancy Marchand was brilliant as Livia. I also thought Aida Turturro was great as Janice, and Lorraine Bracco as Melfi (although I can see where all three characters were annoying and could be difficult to watch).

          1. Oh, the actresses are excellent, that’s part of the problem. I can only stand watching too realistic Livia and Janice so many times.

            As for Melfi, it’s the bullshit psychiatry in her office that offends. I do like the scenes where Melfi is with her own shrink, who explains to her how Tony is playing her and what a waste of time her “therapy” actually is.

            1. Melfi’s shrink, Eliot Kupferberg, was played by Peter Bogdanovich, the celebrated director of films like The Last Picture Show (one of our host’s all-time favorites) and Paper Moon and Daisy Miller. I agree with you that those scenes with him and Melfi were top-notch. Kuperferberg provided the show’s writers a chance to vent their intellectual sides.

              Part of the bitter message David Chase was holding up in his audience’s face as the series wore on was that the show’s two female leads, Melfi and Carmela, for all their self-delusion about improving Tony, were actually aiding and abetting his evil ways.

              1. Ah, yes – one of the best scenes was Carmela being told the raw truth by yet another psychiatrist.

  5. I found it interesting that the urban (liberal) areas seem to prefer comedy/animation shows and the rural (conservatives) prefer more serious drama and the horror/supernatural shows. You have to click on the link to get the summary where this is revealed.

    No news shows listed, but I’m sure FOX would be rural and CNN/MSNBC would be urban. Not that it matters since corporate news pretty much sucks anyway. I only watch Lawrence O’donnell nowadays…sometimes Chris Hayes and Rachel Maddow.

    1. Someone once told me that the liberal/conservative outlooks are best described as how people behave in the Star Trek universe/Walking Dead universe.

      Liberals behave as though the world as full of hope and promise, conservatives behave as though the world is a zombie apocalypse.

    1. Channeling Jerry Mander’s “Four Arguments for the Elimination of Television”?

      Your brief post does pretty much encapsulate the core of the book. I think it applies equally to the act of focusing on ANY screen.

  6. Perhaps the Duck Sphincter part of the US could secede and call themselves Central America (with all the probable outcomes that the name implies), while the coasts join Canada. There would be a 20 year trial before you were allowed to vote, BTW. No offense, but really….

  7. It would be useful to see possible news sources and internet sites.

    At my work place (though this could be apocryphal) it is said the main domain visited at work is .com (espn, can, fox, etx.) but the theorists mostly go to .edu or .org.

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