Watchers of the “Roseanne” television revival are surprisingly bipartisan and not as “pro Trump” as they’ve been typecast. Observers widely expected the network’s revival of the 1980’s sitcom starring Roseanne Barr to attract President Trump’s supporters. Even Fox News pegged it as “ABC’s pro-Trump ‘Roseanne,'” and the show’s namesake star is a vocal Trump supporter. But viewers identify evenly between Democrats, Republicans and Independents, according to a new Ipsos survey.
“Although Roseanne Barr is a staunch Trump supporter and her character’s decision to vote for Trump was a featured storyline, her show draws viewers from across party lines,” says Mallory Newall, director, U.S. Ipsos Public Affairs.
Viewers don’t fit Central Casting Republicans
Slightly more “Roseanne” watchers voted for Trump than Clinton in 2016. But their political views are complex and don’t neatly break across party lines. For example, survey questions examining Americans’ beliefs about whether the system is broken usually prompt responses along a party divide.
But, “Roseanne” watchers tend to answer more like Independent respondents. Three of four “Roseanne” watchers agree that the mainstream media is more interested in making money than telling the truth. They most closely compare to Independents at 70% than Democrats at 59% Republicans at 87%.
“That, coupled with the party identification of viewers, points to ‘Roseanne’ as more of a bipartisan draw than critics predicted,” says Newall.
Travis Ethington, 29-year-old from San Antonio, Texas, is one of those viewers. He says he leans liberal but doesn’t associate with one party. He was an avid fan of the original show and has watched a couple of episodes of the reboot. “I see my parents and my family in the Connor family,” Ethington says. “For me it’s more about nostalgia. I have deep attachment for it.”
He saw the original show as a snapshot of lower middle-class life. He was curious about whether the new show’s characters would be portrayed the same way as the older show or if they would move up in economic class as his parents have. Ethington doesn’t relate to the debate about Roseanne Connor’s politics.
“In the show, they portray an independent mindset,” he says. “They’re not there for an agenda. I don’t get that feeling and if you give it a chance you might take something out it.”
Some Republican leanings show through
Yet there are some ways that Roseanne viewers clearly lean Republican or believe the show to have partisan roots. When asked what appeals to them to watch the show, Republican viewers agree twice as often as Democrat or Independent watchers that the Roseanne character reflects their politics. Those that watch every episode are also more likely to be Republicans. What’s more, “Roseanne” viewers get more television news from Fox News, a network considered to skew Republican.
A third of current viewers describe themselves as avid viewers of the original series. Watchers list the show’s humor as the top reason for tuning in the second time around, followed by a desire to see what happened to the characters.
“Most people who I talk with who are strongly Democratic don’t care for it,” says Theresa Wilson, 48, from Naperville, Illinois. “But I feel they don’t care for it because they have a preconceived notion against Roseanne. I feel like it portrays the average American person and it reminds me a lot of the environment I grew up in.”
The yoga studio owner says that she didn’t grow up in a Republican environment. “If you take the politics out of it, everything else is exactly how my family was growing up,” she adds. Wilson says she watched the original show regularly and watches every episode of the new show, and sometimes twice. A self-described Democrat who’s “getting more Democratic every day,” Wilson argues that “for what it is I don’t feel it’s really a political show,” she says. “I feel like it’s more a show about our biases and racism.”