Most Voters Oppose Ending Pubcast Funding

A PBS-commissioned survey finds Americans across the political spectrum see PBS and public TV stations as highly trusted and an excellent taxpayer value.

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. On behalf of PBS, the polling team of Hart Research Associates (D) and American Viewpoint (R) conducted a nationwide telephone survey among a representative cross-section of 804 registered voters. Interviewing was conducted Feb. 11-13,  and the survey has an overall margin of error of ±3.5%.

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.
  • PBS is America’s most trusted institution. In fact, American voters have twice the level of trust in PBS (44% “trust a great deal”) over the nearest tested institution, courts of law (with 22% “trust a great deal”).

“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.”

See results of the Hart Research – American Viewpoint survey here.


See an analysis of the data by Hart Research–American Viewpoint here.

Comments (7)

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Clare Gibson says:

March 1, 2011 at 8:53 am

Having worked at a PBS station – and in all honesty, prior thereto – I disagree with the “majority” of voters. An entity either sustains itself or goes away, plain and simple.

Davida Rochman says:

March 1, 2011 at 9:31 am

In my opinion, PBS rarely represents the conservative view, but is almost totally on the liberal side. As long as they take public funds they should refrain from the liberal bias and just present the facts. They should have programming that appeals to both the liberals and conservatives. The same bias exists in commercial broadcasting, but it is supported by advertising, not hand-outs of pubic funds. If PBS takes money from the government (which is us) they should certainly remove the bias.

Lady Success says:

March 1, 2011 at 11:09 am

James, you are of course entitled to your opinion, but if you look closely at the programs PBS airs, the vast majority of them are apolitical, educational programs. I rarely see political content in Sesame Street or Great Performances. Their news programs and documentaries always attempt to present both sides of an issue…something you can’t always, if ever, say about MSNBC and Fox News. Yes, Bill Moyers has had a home at PBS. So did William Buckley. Last night, on the PBS Newshour, Judy Woodruff interviewed Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius at length about the the Health Care Bill, then gave Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah at least ten minutes to respond . No network newscast would devote that much time to a single topic, let alone present both sides equally.
The fact that both Republican AND Democratic administrations have had beefs with Public Broadcasting over the years tells me that PBS does a pretty good job overall in NOT taking sides. Not being on the far right does NOT equal being far left. There is a center in this country.

Gene Johnson says:

March 1, 2011 at 11:09 am

To James: Bias is in the eye of the beholder. I believe there are surveys that show that PBS, when considering the totality of the programming, is not so biased (e.g., generally speaking, conservatives think it skews to the liberal side, liberals think it skews conservative, and moderates are in the middle). I don’t have any I can cite immediately at hand, but recall seeing them. As for commercial broadcasting, I find the claim somewhat extraordinary given the prominence of so many conservatives (e.g., Limbaugh, Beck, etc.), and the generally conservative nature of most broadcast companies (corporations). As a viewer of both, though obviously I don’t see all programming, my perception is that commercial broadcasting is most certainly not liberal (I find myself railing at various newscasts and the like for not raising certain facts, or allowing conservatives to get away with misleading or false statements without challenge). Obviously you see it differently. And that’s the point. But, regardless of bias arguments, I think the commercial media are doing a very poor job of educating the public about what is happening, as survey after survey indicate that most Americans don’t understand the issues we confront or don’t understand some of the basics about what is happening. There was a recent Pew online survey that asked 12 (I think) very basic questions about what his happening, or just happened (such as which party “won” the 2010 elections), and more than half the respondents could not answer even half the questions (10% got all wrong or only one right) (note this was as of the time I took the survey). It is a very sorry state of affairs.

Gregg Palermo says:

March 1, 2011 at 11:18 am

I couldn’t get past “PBS-commissioned study”! C’mon, if Hershey commissioned a study that said chocolate was good for you or Folgers commissioned a study that said coffee was good for you, would you REALLY believe it? It’s all in the way they word the questions! Ask yourself, why is moveon.org such a strong supporter of the supposedly apolitical PBS?

Brad Dann says:

March 1, 2011 at 3:50 pm

This is an issue that always comes up when someone gets upset about something in PBS or NPR programming. There are plenty of views expressed on news programs on a number of networks that I think we’re missing the forest for the trees when discussing bias of one network or program. There are all produced by people, so of course there’s some bias involved, always has been. I vote primarily Republican but I enjoy NPR news on radio and PBS News Hour and Frontline on TV. Can I see/hear bias sometimes, sure. I am confident enough in my self and my beliefs that I can listen to other ideas and evaluate if they make sense to me or not.

The real question we should be asking is, should the government (funded by taxpayers) be paying the CPB to contribute to NPR and PBS. I’m not sure how far back government funding of Public Broadcasting goes, but I’m past a half century and it’s been debated as long as I can remember. I think Public Broadcasting is a worthy cause and should be funded. Cutting it does almost nothing to balance the budget. Now there is an argument to be made that it should have to survive in the marketplace, but that would mean redefining how these stations and networks are allowed to handle sponsorship and advertising within their license restrictions. I’m not sure those trying to cut spending are thinking about the “unintended consequences” of making Public Broadcasting totally self reliant.

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