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The Forerunner

Gallup Poll on TV

By Editorial Staff
Published May 1, 1989

VIRGINIA BEACH, VA (CBN) – Parents who watch television with their children are becoming increasingly uncomfortable with what they are seeing on their screens. And with a similarly growing frequency, many are either switching channels or turning off the set altogether.

These findings, which were described as a “clear warning” to producers and sponsors alike, are contained in a new survey just released by the Gallup Poll. Included in the study were 424 parents of children under 18 who watch television with their youngsters.

The results come at a time when “trash TV” is becoming a household term and citizens’ decency groups and individuals are taking their complaints to the legislative halls as well as to the doorsteps of the sponsors of some of the programs considered most offensive.

A total of 58 percent of those parents polled said they either were frequently or occasionally uncomfortable with something in a TV program they watched with their children. Only 17 percent said they never were uncomfortable with the shows they saw, while only 25 percent said they seldom were bothered by the programming.

The leading cause of discomfort, according to the poll, is the programmers’ preoccupation with sex, either by sexual suggestion or a more flagrant and overt focus on sex. In this category, 46 percent said they were disturbed by it.

Next in the line of offenses was violence, with 37 percent of the parents objecting to it.

Foul language, swearing or cursing comprised the third category, with 17 percent of the parents saying they were uncomfortable with it.

The discomfort factor was fairly uniform across the nation, ranging from the lowest amount of concern, 52 percent in the West, to 65 percent in the South. In the East, the figure was 54 percent, and in the Midwest, 58 percent.

Parents with children between the ages of 6 and 12 had the greatest amount of concern about current programming. Sixty-six percent of those in the age group were occasionally or frequently disturbed by what they saw, just barely trailed by 62 percent of those with kids 13 to 17, and 57 percent with children in the under-five age bracket.

What are these parents doing about their growing uneasiness with television? According to the poll, 70 percent of those watching TV with their children are either zapping channels in search of something less offensive or they are flipping off the set altogether.

Forty-six percent of those polled said they turn to a different channel when they become uncomfortable with what they and their youngsters are watching. Twenty-four percent said they turn off the TV. Another 11 percent said they discuss with their children what should have been said on the show, and five percent said they refuse to allow the kids to watch the program in the future.

“I just feel that it should be a clear message to those who put programs together, those who sponsor the programs and the television networks and stations,” George Gallup Jr., president of The Gallup Organization, Inc., said of the results. He said much of the present programming shows “a breakdown in standards and a pandering to baser emotions.”

“We all share the same horror at some of the things seen on television,” he added.

The negative reaction showed no indication of being limited geographically, Gallup pointed out. Only a 13 percent difference was noted between the South, which often is considered to be the home of more conservative views, and the West, sometimes thought of as less conservative.

Nor was there much of a difference between mothers and fathers in the number concerned about what they watched with their children. Sixty-one percent of the mothers expressed dissatisfaction. For fathers, it was only six percentage points less, at 55 percent.

Gallup said his figures indicate a sharply growing number of parents who have had objections to television in the last 12 months. More than half of those parents who watch TV programs with their children (55 percent) said the programming is more offensive this year than just a year ago. Only 30 percent said the programming was less offensive. “Clearly, it’s a growing trend,” he said.

The findings are based on telephone interviews with 424 parents of children under 18, out of a total sample of 1008 adults, 18 and older. The survey was conducted nationwide by The Gallup Organization between November 14 and December 4, 1988, for The CBN Family Channel, the nation’s oldest basic cable network. For results based on the subsample of parents, the pollster said one could say with 95 percent confidence that the error attributable to sampling error and other random effects could be five percentage points in either direction.


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