Kevin Spacey, House of Cards


Pop & Politics contributor Judy Kurtz is the "In the Know" columnist for The Hill

From HGTV's Love it or List It and Netflix's House of Cards to Fox's long-running animated series The Simpsons, the crop of 2016 White House hopefuls have at least one thing in common: eclectic taste in television viewing.

And according to experts, the shows that people choose to watch can offer a peek into their personality.

"It says something, especially if a person has a heavy diet of a certain type of programming," says Mary Beth Oliver, a professor specializing in media and psychology at Penn State University and co-director of the school's Media Effects Research Laboratory.

Chris Noth, The Good Wife

Paul Sarkis/CBS

"Just like if you walked into their home and saw they had a big collection of a certain author of books on their shelf," says Oliver. "If there's a lot of effort and attention given to a certain type of programming, then it reflects personality just like their taste in music might, or their taste in poetry might, or clothing, even."

So what do the favorite TV shows of the presidential candidates say about them? We asked Oliver and Dr. Pamela Rutledge, director of the Media Psychology Research Center (neither of whom have worked with any of the 2016 contenders) to weigh in on what the viewing habits of some of the would-be commander in chiefs reveal about them.

Hillary Clinton, Julianna Margulies, The Good Wife

Getty Images; CBS

Hillary Clinton: HGTV, The Good Wife, Parks and Recreation

Calling it "relaxing, entertaining, and informative," the Democratic frontrunner has confessed to being a die-hard HGTV fan. "I love watching people redecorating their houses, buying houses," Clinton, the only former White House resident of the bunch, said last month. "There's a program called Love it or List It. I like to watch Beachfront Bargain [Hunt]."

Home-improvement shows, Rutledge says, can appeal to few different types of people. "On the one hand, there's this sort of aspirational quality where you get to see houses, or you get to do remodels, or you get to go places if you watch House Hunters International, those kinds of things, where it's really fun."

Clinton also revealed, in one of her emails as secretary of state that was made public earlier this month, a desire to tune in to NBC's Parks and Recreation and CBS' The Good Wife. Rutledge says Clinton might relate to Julianna Margulies' Good Wife character, a spouse of a public figure involved in a sex scandal.

"I would imagine that [The Good Wife] sort of reinforces her sense of self when that character is winning," the psychologist says.

Donald Trump, My Big Fat Obnoxious Boss

Getty Images; FOX

Donald Trump: My Big Fat Obnoxious Boss

While it's unclear exactly what show the Republican presidential candidate and real estate mogul would consider his fave (a spokeswoman didn't return a request for comment on his viewing habits), Trump did once offer his seal of approval on a short-lived reality TV spoof.

The 2004 satire, which got the ax from Fox after just five episodes, lampooned the Trump-hosted reality competition The Apprentice. But Trump called it an "honor" in an interview with the New York Post, saying he dug the series. "We've been so successful with The Apprentice that at least they have the guts to admit it's a knockoff, a comedic knockoff," Trump said at the time.

"He does like to see himself as boss," Rutledge says of the now-former Apprentice and Celebrity Apprentice host. "He is sort of self-focused… He says what he thinks. And at the same time, there's this current of him not taking himself too seriously."

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Ted Cruz, Homer Simpson

Getty Images; FOX

Sen. Ted Cruz: The Simpsons

The GOP presidential candidate has made it clear that he's uncompromising when it comes to his love of his favorite TV show, The Simpsons—even doing his best impressions from the series in a web video.

Noting many fans of the animated comedy have abandoned the show for newer fare, such as Modern Family, Rutledge says, "I think it fits [Cruz] in the sense that fundamentally it is about family values in an offbeat kind of way, especially with Marge as the anchor. And it is about an underdog, which is where he has such play."

Rutledge adds, "But still being a Simpsons fan makes him a little bit retro in the pop culture sense. But he's a conservative guy, so maybe that's a fit. And he puts his foot in it, just like Homer."

Bobby Jindal, The Brady Bunch

Getty Images; ABC

Gov. Bobby Jindal: The Brady Bunch

"Every day after school, I'd come home and I'd watch The Brady Bunch," Jindal told 60 Minutes in 2009.

One of the characters from the classic 1960s sitcom also served as the inspiration for Jindal's name—or nickname, actually! (The Louisiana governor's legal first name is Piyush.)

"I identified with Bobby, you know? He was about my age, and ‘Bobby' stuck," Jindal explained, referring to the youngest son in the Brady brood.

Jindal is "from Louisiana and he's an Indian-American, so relating to someone who's an outsider, that's going to resonate in the political arena," Rutledge says.

Jeb Bush, Steven Van Zandt, Lillyhammer

Getty Images; Netflix

Jeb Bush: Lilyhammer

Netflix's prescient experiment found a fan in the former Florida governor.

"I'm waiting for the third season of Lilyhammer. That's my favorite show. I love that show," Bush said in an NBC interview earlier this year. The series, which aired on Norwegian TV before being acquired by Netflix, follows a fictional New York gangster, played by Sopranos alum and E Street Band member Steven Van Zandt (so maybe Chris Christie is a fan, too?), as he embarks on a new life in Norway.

The show's main character "is thoughtful and persistent, a little bit depressing, he sort of struggles. He doesn't give up," according to Rutledge. "And I think if Jeb Bush has a problem [with his image], it's hard to project thoughtfulness. The cameras and everything really respond to high energy, that kind of extroverted charisma."

Carly Fiorin, Robin Wright, House of Cards

Getty Images; Netflix

Carly Fiorina: House of Cards

The Republican presidential candidate and former Hewlett-Packard CEO has called Netflix's political thriller—which follows a corrupt and conniving fictional commander in chief and his just as morally compromised wife—her "favorite show."

"Here's a situation where not only the main character is evil, but we're part of his conspiracy, because he talks to us and asks us to join him as he walks into the room and does some evil deed to someone," explains Oliver. "So there's a certain level of having to resolve a cognitive dissidence that goes on because we certainly don't want to think of ourselves as evil, yet we're participating. We're in conspiracy with him."

Scott Walker, American Idol

Getty Images

Gov. Scott Walker: American Idol

Although Walker has said that he doesn't have a favorite television show, he has stated that he and wife Tonette were devotees of Fox's singing competition for years. 

The show, which will end after its upcoming 15th season, is "really about the American dream," Rutledge says. "It's about being somebody from nowhere that has talent and energy, and being able to convert that into success."

We're guessing that, whoever is elected come 2016, the White House DVR will be working overtime!

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