What your favorite TV show says about your politics

(CBS News) Thanks to advances in ad targeting, television shows like "Judge Judy" and "The Big Bang Theory" may be key players in determining the outcome of November's presidential election.

This cycle, campaigns have gone further than ever before to pinpoint demographics that indicate not only how viewers of certain programs are likely to vote, but whether they'll show up to the polls. And considering fewer than one voter in 10 is undecided, according to the most recent Quinnipiac University/CBS News/New York Times , campaigns are loading battleground states with a barrage of ads - just not where voters have come to expect them.

While candidates traditionally have focused their time and money on ad buys in local television newscasts, under the presumption that viewers are politically engaged, "now they're looking at ethnic characteristics, combined with age characteristics, combined with gender characteristics, and combining that up with their polling to try to put their messages precisely on target," Ken Goldstein, president of the Campaign Media Analysis Group, said Friday on "CBS This Morning."

"If you think about what candidates and campaigns care about, it's how many Democrats watch that show? How many Republicans watch that show? How many swing voters watch that show?" Goldstein continued.

In the case of "Judge Judy," the audience is composed primarily of African Americans and Hispanics - critical pillars of Preisdent Obama's voting base. And that's just the beginning.

Viewers of "The Simpsons" and Bravo's "Real Housewives" series tend to be liberal, but unlikely to turn out to vote; meanwhile, the Golf Channel's audience consists mainly of conservative males who will probably be visiting the polls in November. College football, NASCAR, and the Olympics are a big draw for conservatives, Major League Baseball is more or less equally divided, and more Democrats tend to watch tennis and professional basketball.

During primetime, "The Mentalist" attracts mostly Republicans likely to vote, "The Good Wife," does the same for Democrats. "Modern Family" and "The Office" may be popular picks for ad buys as their target audience sits somewhere in the middle.

"We have to be smart about how we spend our money," Mr. Obama's chief campaign strategist David Axelrod told CBS News in a recent interview. "And so we're constantly looking about, at how we spend our dollar to see to it that we're speaking directly to those folks who are most likely to be making up their mind."

  • Bill Plante

    Bill Plante is a CBS News Senior White House Correspondent