Written by: Tom Rieland
Date: March 1, 2011

A national survey undertaken by the bipartisan polling firms of Hart Research and American Viewpoint indicates overwhelming public opposition (69% to 27%) to proposals to eliminate government funding of public broadcasting, with voters across the political spectrum opposed to such a cut, including 83% of Democrats, 69% of independents and 56% of Republicans. More than two-thirds (68%) of voters say that congressional budget cutters should “find other places in the budget to save money.”

PBS commissioned this research to measure the organization’s performance and value as judged by the American public. Highlights of the survey results include:

• Cutting the federal budget deficit is a strong priority of the American public, but so is public broadcasting — fully eight in 10 (82%) voters say reducing the deficit should be an “absolute top priority” (42%) or a “high priority” (40%) for the country — but these voters also say that eliminating funding for public broadcasting is the wrong way to go about it.
• Even among the 42% of voters who say that reducing the deficit should be the nation’s top priority, 60% oppose eliminating funding for public broadcasting.
• Support for PBS (73% “excellent” or “good” value) ranks second only to “the country’s military defense” (81% “excellent” or “good” value), when voters were asked to rank “the value for your tax dollars” of specific government-funded programs.
• Nearly eight in 10 voters (79%) believe that PBS should receive “the same amount of government funding” (49%), or “more government funding” (30%) than it currently receives. Ninety-two percent (92%) of Democrats favor the “same amount” or “more government funding” of PBS, as do 75% of Independents, and 67% of Republicans when told that “PBS/public television stations receive about 15% of their funding from the federal government,” and that this “comes out to about one dollar per American each year.”
• More than six voters in 10 (61%) who believe deficit reduction is an important goal also support funding for public broadcasting. Sixty-one percent (61%) agreed with the statement, “Reducing the nation’s budget deficit is an important goal, but public broadcasting provides a valuable public service at a very low cost to taxpayers. There are many better ways to reduce government spending than by eliminating funding for this important priority.” Only 31% of voters agreed with the argument that “Public broadcasting may be important, but with the nation facing a huge budget deficit, we need to make difficult decisions and reduce government spending everywhere we can, including funding for PBS and NPR.”
• Six out of 10 voters (61%) believe the consequences of defunding PBS would be a “massive loss” (24%) or “significant loss for the country,” (37%) when told that eliminating public funding of the 15% of their budgets that PBS and PBS stations receive from the Federal government “could force PBS to eliminate some programming and jeopardize some PBS public television stations.”
• Seventy-two percent (72%) of voters said they would be concerned “a great deal” (56%) or “a fair amount” (16%) if PBS had to “significantly cut back on the educational shows that help children prepare for success in school.” Sixty-seven percent (67%) indicated “a great deal” (53%) of concern or “a fair amount” (14%) of concern if such cuts were to lead to the closing of “your local PBS station.”
• Concern about the possible consequences of cuts on PBS’s ability to provide educational programming for children was seen across the political spectrum, with 88% of Democrats, 71% of Independents, and 56% of Republicans expressing such concern.
• “In an era in which reducing the budget deficit is a high priority, the public is not willing to ‘cut for cutting’s sake’,” said Peter D. Hart of Hart Research. “Voters strongly oppose cuts for public broadcasting because they view it as an excellent taxpayer value and because they recognize what would be lost without PBS’ support for children’s educational advancement, as well as high quality science, history, and cultural programming. Support for PBS and public broadcasting is widespread and overwhelming, and cutting PBS’ relatively small amount of government funding is a losing political argument for proponents of such cuts.”

“The funding of PBS is not an ideological battle,” said Linda DiVall of American Viewpoint. “A majority of conservatives (53%) oppose eliminating government funding for public broadcasting. This is due in part to the value voters derive from its programming, with a majority of Republicans saying they and their family ‘value a great deal’ the educational, non-violent and family-oriented programs that PBS offers. It’s notable just how strong the support for public broadcasting is among Independents whose support often decides elections.”