Henry Jenkins, the pre-eminent scholar of fandom, hit the nail on the head in a recent blog entry about surveys on entertainment and politics. The Lear Center has conducted two of these surveys with Zogby International and, while we found that entertainment tastes break along ideological lines, we also found that some ideological groups are more willing to consume entertainment that doesn’t reflect their values. In both our 2007 and our 2008 polls, respondents who gravitated toward the moderate and liberal end of the spectrum were far more likely to say they ‘very often’ enjoyed entertainment that did not reflect their taste or their values. While we had hoped to find more commonality among various ideological groups â€“ more instances of shared culture â€“ we were pleased, at the very least, to find evidence that some fan communities may be very politically diverse. Oddly enough, the TV show House may be our best candidate, as it was one of the only highly-rated shows on television that was beloved across the ideological spectrum.
Nielsen’s recent survey about the connection between a viewer’s engagement with a TV show and their political party registration left many TV watchers scratching their heads. If watching Damages means I’m a Republican, will my Tivo start auto-recording Hannity & Colmes?
Jenkins’ ends his analysis of these surveys with some enticing questions:
If this presidential election represents a moment of political realignment, what impact will it have on the entertainment programming which gets produced and consumed over the next few years? And for that matter, might House turn out to be, ironically, the series which teaches us all how to get along? Or turning the lens around, does your fandom attract more red, blue, or purple viewers and why? Talk among yourselves — but also talk to someone who believes differently than you do.