Time to Turn Off the TV?

Some fascinating new stats about how much television Americans are watching.

Nate Jackson · Apr. 5, 2019

America is the most prosperous nation in the history of the world, and with that prosperity comes a lot of benefits like leisure time. What do Americans do with that time? A lot of us are spending several hours a day watching television.

Verizon released a study this week revealing the states that watch the most TV, as well as what kinds of shows folks in those states are watching.

First, the numbers. The top 10 states for most hours spent with eyes glued to the boob tube were West Virginia, Delaware, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Nevada, North Dakota, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, and Arkansas. West Virginia led that pack with an astounding 4.5 hours per day — that’s 45 minutes more than Delaware, over an hour longer than Arkansas, and more than two hours ahead of the states watching the least. Those states are led by Utah at only 2.25 hours, followed by Maine, Vermont, Alaska, Colorado, Hawaii, Minnesota, Washington, Montana, and California (at two hours 39 minutes).

What were people watching? In opioid-ravaged West Virginia, as well as Louisiana, Mississippi, #11 South Carolina, and others, it’s soap operas. In Delaware, Nevada, and Georgia, it’s “reality” TV. Nationwide, it’s sitcoms. In the states watching the least television, news programming dominates.

We’ll leave commentary on the quality of that programming for another day (other than to say this: Really — soap operas?). But some other things stand out. As The Resurgent’s Jess Fields notes, “An interesting correlation appears here. The states that watch the least television also, on average, tend to be more active states. These states, on average, tend to participate more in outdoor recreation, enjoyment of nature, and physical fitness.” Relatedly, of the first seven states in Gallup’s most recent Wellbeing Index, six are on the list of those watching TV the least. Correlation or causation?

Conversely, the 10 states watching the most TV are also among the most obese in America. Eight of the states with the heaviest people are among the top 13 in hours of TV per day, including West Virginia leading both lists.

Something else, however, is greatly puzzling. Eight of the top 10 TV-watching states voted for Donald Trump in 2016, while seven of the 10 states watching the least voted for Hillary Clinton. Why is it that red-state folks are watching so much entertainment from leftist Hollywood? Some twisted form of Stockholm syndrome? Or is it simply that Democrat voters in those states are driving the numbers in their desperate attempt at some connection with their ideological brethren?

In any case, Americans watch a lot of TV. That has consequences worth addressing.

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