04/19/2005 - Americans have ambivalent views about the appropriate role for government in curbing sex, violence and indecency in the entertainment media. They have doubts about the effectiveness of government action, and believe that public pressure in the form of complaints and boycotts is a better way of dealing with the problem. They also blame audiences more than the media industry for objectionable material. Significantly, 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%).
Nonetheless, there is broad public support for several proposals now being considered for curbing indecent material in the media. Fully 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%).
This Pew Research Center nationwide survey, conducted among 1,505 Americans from March 17-21, 2005, finds that the tug of war in public opinion about government regulation of entertainment reflects political and religious divides about the issue.
For example, on the fundamental question of whether undue government restrictions or harmful content presents the greater danger, a solid majority of conservative Republicans (57%) cite harmful entertainment. Liberal Democrats, by contrast, overwhelmingly 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.
Read the full report New Concerns About Internet and Reality Shows on the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press Web site.