Does heavy TV viewing push people toward more liberal opinions? Or is it the impact of pre-existing leftist attitudes that lead viewers to invest more of their lives on television?
Analysts may argue about causation, but there’s no real doubt about correlation: an important new study from the Culture and Media Institute shows that those who describe themselves as “heavy” TV viewers embrace distinctly liberal attitudes on a range of crucial issues, placing them well to the left of those who report “light” TV viewing.
The study, conducted by the respected polling firm Fabrizio, McLaughlin & Associates in December, 2006, drew responses from more than 2000 Americans aged 18 and above. This investigation classified “heavy” TV viewers as those who devoted four hours (or more) per evening to watching the tube – and found 25% of the public fit that description. “Light” TV viewers (22.5% of the sample) were those who watched one hour per night or less. In other words, the self-described “heavy” viewers consumed, on average, more than four times the amount of nightly television as the self-consciously “light” viewers.
These starkly contrasting TV habits linked directly to dramatic differences in the two groups in terms of both attitudes and actions.
For instance, heavy TV viewers proved far more likely to agree with the statement “the government needs to get bigger” than were light viewers (26% to 12%). They were also more likely to endorse the idea that “government should be responsible for providing retirement benefits for everyone” (64% to 43%), much more likely to declare themselves “pro choice” on abortion (57% to 43%), more likely to back “a government run health system” (63% to 43%), and much less likely to attend church “at least weekly” (28% to 47%).
In fact, a range of significant real world behaviors connect in striking manner to the amount of television we consume. For instance, among those who commit four hours a night (or more) to the idiot box, a stunning 56% say they never volunteer time to “causes and charities”; only 27% of light viewers (one hour a night or less) make the same statement. When it comes to writing checks, there’s a similar disparity: 24% of heavy viewers give no charity at all, but only 11% of light TV viewers shun their charitable responsibilities.