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 â€œfind other places in the budget to save money.â€
PBS commissioned this research to measure the organizationâ€™s performance and value as judged by the American public. Highlights of the survey results include:
â€¢ Cutting the federal budget deficit is a strong priority of the American public, but so is public broadcasting â€” fully eight in 10 (82%) voters say reducing the deficit should be an â€œabsolute top priorityâ€ (42%) or a â€œhigh priorityâ€ (40%) for the country â€” but these voters also say that eliminating funding for public broadcasting is the wrong way to go about it.
â€¢ Even among the 42% of voters who say that reducing the deficit should be the nationâ€™s top priority, 60% oppose eliminating funding for public broadcasting.
â€¢ Support for PBS (73% â€œexcellentâ€ or â€œgoodâ€ value) ranks second only to â€œthe countryâ€™s military defenseâ€ (81% â€œexcellentâ€ or â€œgoodâ€ value), when voters were asked to rank â€œthe value for your tax dollarsâ€ of specific government-funded programs.
â€¢ Nearly eight in 10 voters (79%) believe that PBS should receive â€œthe same amount of government fundingâ€ (49%), or â€œmore government fundingâ€ (30%) than it currently receives. Ninety-two percent (92%) of Democrats favor the â€œsame amountâ€ or â€œmore government fundingâ€ of PBS, as do 75% of Independents, and 67% of Republicans when told that â€œPBS/public television stations receive about 15% of their funding from the federal government,â€ and that this â€œcomes out to about one dollar per American each year.â€
â€¢ 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, â€œReducing the nationâ€™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.â€ Only 31% of voters agreed with the argument that â€œPublic 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.â€
â€¢ Six out of 10 voters (61%) believe the consequences of defunding PBS would be a â€œmassive lossâ€ (24%) or â€œsignificant loss for the country,â€ (37%) when told that eliminating public funding of the 15% of their budgets that PBS and PBS stations receive from the Federal government â€œcould force PBS to eliminate some programming and jeopardize some PBS public television stations.â€
â€¢ Seventy-two percent (72%) of voters said they would be concerned â€œa great dealâ€ (56%) or â€œa fair amountâ€ (16%) if PBS had to â€œsignificantly cut back on the educational shows that help children prepare for success in school.â€ Sixty-seven percent (67%) indicated â€œa great dealâ€ (53%) of concern or â€œa fair amountâ€ (14%) of concern if such cuts were to lead to the closing of â€œyour local PBS station.â€
â€¢ Concern about the possible consequences of cuts on PBSâ€™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.
â€¢ â€œIn an era in which reducing the budget deficit is a high priority, the public is not willing to â€˜cut for cuttingâ€™s sakeâ€™,â€ said Peter D. Hart of Hart Research. â€œVoters strongly oppose cuts for public broadcasting because they view it as an excellent taxpayer value and because they recognize what would be lost without PBSâ€™ 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 PBSâ€™ relatively small amount of government funding is a losing political argument for proponents of such cuts.â€
â€œThe funding of PBS is not an ideological battle,â€ said Linda DiVall of American Viewpoint. â€œA 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 â€˜value a great dealâ€™ the educational, non-violent and family-oriented programs that PBS offers. Itâ€™s notable just how strong the support for public broadcasting is among Independents whose support often decides elections.â€
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