Who Cares? — Americans Ask in New National Poll on Celebrity Political Views

News Story: December 21, 2007

Large majorities:

  • See too much coverage of celebrities
  • Say media has more influence on children than parents
  • Say there’s too much sex on TV
  • Support limits on advertising content surrounding children’s shows

FAIRFIELD, Conn.— A new national poll conducted by the Sacred Heart University Polling Institute finds large majorities of Americans, 80.7%, pay no or very little attention to celebrities when they make political or public policy statements. This is down slightly from 81.9% found in a 2003 Sacred Heart Poll.

“Once again, Americans are loudly confirming they just don’t care who Oprah or Magic Johnson support for President,” said Jerry C. Lindsley, director of the SHU Polling Institute. He added, “Americans may be enjoying the free entertainment from Hollywood celebrities, but it’s not moving them to the polls.”

Three-fifths of Americans surveyed (59.1%) would rather see celebrities leave public policy-making to the experts and the voters. This is down somewhat from 69.5% in a 2003 SHU Poll. Another 31.7% suggested celebrities should publicly voice their political views. This is up somewhat from 27.6% in a 2003 Sacred Heart Poll.

Most Americans (88.1%) did agree there was too much coverage of celebrities.

Large majorities of Americans strongly or somewhat agreed that advertising surrounding children’s viewing hours should be regulated for content (88.0%), there’s too much sex on TV (80.4%), and the media has more influence on children today than parents (70.3%).

"The dissatisfaction with media content expressed by the majority of the American public could be viewed as an opportunity for media professionals to address issues that affect the American public as voters and citizens, not just as consumers and fans," stated James Castonguay, Ph.D., associate professor and chair of SHU’s Department of Media Studies & Digital Culture.

"At the same time, the American public views the Internet as a tool that can both educate and entertain," he added.

National poll respondents did see the Internet as having a positive impact. Three- quarters of Americans surveyed, 75.0%, agreed that the Internet is a positive educational supplement today.

Just 30.0% are pleased that Don Imus has returned to radio broadcasting. And, about a third, 35.4%, of those surveyed believed that repeated illegal downloading of music or movies should result in jail time.

While only a minority of respondents, 40.8%, say they closely follow who owns their local radio and TV stations, a majority, 58.6%, agreed that there should be legal limits on the number of media outlets a single individual or corporation can own.

According to Castonguay, "This poll suggests that despite the continued increase in media outlets and channels, the vast majority of Americans still feel like they are getting more of the same rather than diverse and substantive content."

EXPERTS AVAILABLE FOR COMMENT

  • Jerry C. Lindsley, director, Sacred Heart University Polling Institute
  • James Castonguay, Ph.D., associate professor and chair, Sacred Heart University’s Department of Media Studies & Digital Culture

To speak with these experts, please contact Funda Alp at 203-396-8241 or alpf@sacredheart.edu.

How the Poll Was Conducted

The Sacred Heart University Polling Institute completed 800 interviews with residents nationwide between November 26 – December 5, 2007. The sample was generated proportional to population contribution in all 50 states. Statistically, a sample of 800 completed telephone interviews represents a margin for error of +/-3.5% at a 95% confidence level.

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