Still flapping like roused chickens after the Janet Jackson Super Bowl exposure of over a year ago, the American public is up in arms over sex, violence and indecency in entertainment, but is extremely conflicted over what to do about it, according to the results of a new poll released by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press.
There is broad public support for several proposals now being considered for curbing indecent material in the media: 75% favor tighter enforcement of government rules on TV content during hours when children are most likely to be watching. Sizable majorities also back other anti-indecency proposals currently before Congress, including steeper fines (69%) and extending network standards for indecency to cable television (60%), yet Americans see greater danger in the government’s imposing undue restrictions on the entertainment industry, than in the industry producing harmful content (by 48% vs. 41%).
On the question of whether undue government restrictions or harmful content presents the greater danger, a majority of conservative Republicans (57%) cite harmful entertainment, but liberal Democrats believe excessive government restrictions are the larger concern (by 72%-21%). Similarly, while 51% of white evangelical Protestants say offensive entertainment presents a greater danger than undue government restriction, just 27% of seculars agree. Those over 50 are much more likely to view content as a greater danger than government regulation, but those under 30 view excessive government restrictions as a far greater danger than harmful content.
Most Americans say parents are primarily to blame when children are exposed to explicit sex or graphic violence. Fully 79% say inadequate parental supervision rather than inadequate laws is mostly responsible for children being exposed to that sort of offensive material; there are no significant political or religious differences on this point. And by more than ten-to-one (86%-8%), the public believes that parents, rather than the entertainment industry, bear the most responsibility for keeping children from seeing sex and violence in TV and movies.
About six-in-ten say they are very concerned over what children see or hear on TV (61%), in music lyrics (61%), video games (60%) and movies (56%). An even higher percentage (73%) express a great deal of concern over the internet, BUT a similar percentage (62%) say there is enough information available to help them decide whether movies, TV, video games and music lyrics are appropriate.
60% say they have a favorable opinion of the motion picture and TV entertainment industry, which marks little change from 2001 (58%) or 1999 (60%). A comparable majority (55%) has a positive opinion of the recording and music industry, but the public continues to have low regard for video games manufacturers: only about a third (34%) have a favorable view of the makers of video games, about the same as in June 1999.
The entire report can be found here.