Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Tough-minded conservatives and Hollywood-friendly liberals have markedly different opinions about sex, violence and indecency on television, a Pew Research Center poll shows.

“Liberal Democrats are least likely to favor stricter control on the media,” the poll states, noting that roughly half of the respondents favor measures such as government-enforced decency standards during family viewing times or steep fines for violators.

“Conservative Republicans, however, strongly favor added sanctions, with more than eight-in-10 favoring an enforced family hour on TV and increased fines,” the survey notes.

Evangelical Protestants and other churchgoers have similar opinions: 70 percent of the evangelicals approve of boycotting offending networks, while 90 percent favor a government-sanctioned family hour and fines.

“On the fundamental question of whether undue government restrictions — or harmful content — presents the greater danger, a solid majority of conservative Republicans [57 percent] cite harmful entertainment,” the poll reports.

“Liberal Democrats, by contrast, overwhelmingly believe excessive government restrictions are the larger concern [72 percent to 21 percent],” it adds.

The wide-ranging survey finds that overall, the nation is not keen on the content and effect of television and other entertainment on families and culture. Moral standards are “not like the good old days,” according to the findings.

Seventy-five percent of the respondents agree that people do not lead as “honest and moral lives” as they did in the past, while 79 percent feel that teens and children don’t have as strong a sense of right and wrong as they did 50 years ago.

But the nation believes in good, close parenting: 86 percent say that parents are the most responsible for screening children from sex and violence in television and films.

It’s a tough fight, though.

Among parents, the survey finds that 67 percent are “very concerned” about what their children encounter on television and in video games and music lyrics; 81 percent are equally worried about Internet content.

Still, only 14 percent of the parents say they “always” watch television with their offspring. Although 67 percent say television programming gives young people wrong ideas about what is acceptable in polite society, almost half say that there are “bigger problems for kids than the media.”

Meanwhile, two-thirds of Americans think television programming has worsened in the last five years, while three-quarters favor tighter enforcement of government decency rules, with seven in 10 approving of violator fines. Another 58 percent approve of a public boycott of offensive networks or producers.

Too much sex on camera leads the list of the content offenses, followed by violence, reality shows, bad values, pointless plots, bad examples for children and swearing.

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