January 1, 2011

What the American public thinks about sex, vulgarity & violence on TV

Opinion polls compiled by Robert Peters, President of Morality in Media

According to a survey conducted for Parents Television Council (PTC Release, 4/7/11),57% of adults agreed that “the FCC should keep its legal authority to fine broadcasters if they air indecent material during times when children are likely to be in the audience;” and 75% agreed  that “there is too much sex, violence and coarse language on television.”

According to a survey conducted for the First Amendment Center (Release, 9/17/08), 62% of adults said the “government should be allowed to fine television broadcasters who air profane or obscene words that are scripted prior to the broadcast;” 50% said “government should be allowed to fine television broadcasters who air profane or obscene words spoken as part of spontaneous, unscripted material.”

According to a poll conducted by Harris Interactive for Morality in Media (Release, 7/12/07), 52% of adult Americans said the FCC should have authority to fine any of the major broadcast TV networks, such as NBC, ABC, CBS and FOX, for airing a single expletive or “four letter word.”

According to a poll conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation (Release, 6/19/07), 66% of parents said they favored government regulations to limit the amount of sex and violence on TV during the early evening hours, a proportion that was virtually unchanged from 2004.

According to a survey released by the Culture and Media Institute (“The Media Assault on American Values,” 2007), 73% of adults said the “entertainment media” have a negative impact on moral values.

According to an Associated Press/IPSOS poll (Associated Press, 2/23/06), 66% of adult Americans thought there was “too much sex on television;” 68% thought there was “too much violence.”

According to a poll conducted by Harris Interactive for Morality in Media (Release, 4/25/05), 53% of adult Americans said the FCC is doing a “poor job” of maintaining community standards of decency on broadcast TV, particularly during the evening hours from 8 pm to 10 pm.

According to a poll by the Pew Research Center (4/19/2005), 69% of adults favored “increasing fines on broadcasters,” 60% favored having “cable follow same rules as broadcast,” and 75% favored “stricter enforcement of rules when children likely to watch.”  86% of adults were concerned about “what children see or hear on TV;” 61% were “personally” bothered by “adult language;” 56% by “sexual content.”

According to a Time Magazine poll (3/18/05), 53% of adults said that in controlling the amount of sex and violence on TV, the government should be “more strict;” 49% said, “government’s regulations over program content should be extended to cover basic cable like MTV and E;” 58% said there was “too much cursing and sexual language” on broadcast TV; 50% said there was “too much explicit sexual content, such as nudity” on broadcast TV; 63% said, “implied fictional sex between two actors, but with no actual nudity on screen,” was “suitable only after 10 pm” or “never suitable” on broadcast TV.  In response to the question, “Do you believe that the entertainment industry, including Hollywood and TV producers, is in touch with your moral standards, or not?” 68% responded, “No.”

According to a CBS News/NY Times poll (11/23/04), 70% of adults were worried that “popular culture – that is, television, movies and music – is lowering the moral standards of the country.”

According to a survey released by the Kaiser Family Foundation (9/23/04), 89% of parents were “concerned about children’s exposure to inappropriate content in entertainment media, especially on TV;” 60% were “very concerned” that their children were being exposed to too much sexual content on TV; 49% were “very concerned” that their children were being exposed to too much “adult language” on TV; 83% thought exposure to sexual content on TV contributed “to children becoming involved in sexual situations before they are ready;” 63% favored “new regulations” to limit sex and violence on TV during early evening; 52% said cable should be subject to the same standards as broadcast TV.

According to a survey by the Barna Group (7/26/04), only 15% of adults felt that “allowing “the ‘F-word’ on broadcast TV” was acceptable; 83% of adults dismissed this as inappropriate.

According to a Chicago Tribune poll (“Free Speech: Do Americans really believe in it?” 7/4/04), 55% of adults said government should restrict violence and sexual content on cable TV.

According to a survey conducted for the First Amendment Center (6/30/04), 65% of adults thought “government should have the power to regulate during the morning, afternoon and early evening hours those broadcast television programs that contain references to sexual activity;” 55% said government officials should have “the power to regulate during the morning, afternoon and early evening hours those cable television programs that contain references to sexual activity.”

In a survey conducted by Nielsen (4/29/04), 78% of American families who had recently been part of the Nielsen “People Meter” panel wanted more shows “without profanity or swear words.”

According to a Gallup Poll (Release, 2/12/04), 75% of adult Americans said the entertainment industry should make a serious effort to reduce the amount of sex and violence in its movies, television shows and music; 61% said they were offended by violence on TV; 58% by profanity; 58% by sexual content.

In an opinion poll for TV Guide (8/2/03), 57% of TV viewers said they “noticed an increase in offensive material on television lately” but only 8% had ever bothered to call a TV network to make a complaint.

In an opinion poll for Common Sense Media (“New Attempt to Monitor Media Content,” NY Times, 5/21/03), 64% of parents with at least one child between the ages of 2 and 17 believed media products in general were inappropriate for their families; only 1 in 5 “fully trusted” the industry-controlled ratings.

In a survey by Public Agenda (“Parent’s feel they’re failing to teach values,” USA TODAY, 10/30/02), “about 90% [of parents] say TV programs are getting worse every year because of bad language and adult themes in show that air from 8 to 10 p.m.”

In a Family Circle poll (10/8/02), 67% of those surveyed said they were worried about the amount of sex on TV; 69% believed TV sex is increasing.  When asked about specific scenes in programs such as Sopranos, The Shield, and Sex in the City.  From 48% to 76% found the scenes “unacceptable.”

In a study from Universal McCann Media Research (Media Wire, 8/21/00), 35% of adults, regardless of whether they lived with children, reported viewing TV content “in the past few weeks” that they found personally offensive or morally objectionable, and such material was more commonly reported as “profane language, sexually suggestive language and situations and excessive violence.

In an opinion poll for Annenberg Public Policy Center (6/26/2000), “more parents” were concerned about children’s TV use than any other medium, and 43% of families with children 2-17 could not name one TV program they encouraged their children to watch.

In an opinion poll for USA Today (9/24/99), adults were asked what most bothered them about network TV: 45% said sexual situations or lewd/profane language.

In an opinion poll for the Kaiser Family Foundation (5/10/99), 87% of parents were concerned about sexual content on TV and 84% about adult language. 

In a opinion poll conducted by Wirthlin Worldwide for Morality in Media (2/12/98), 59% of adult Americans thought the FCC needed to work harder to enforce the broadcast indecency law; only 28% thought a rating system and V-Chip combination would be an effective alternative.

In a study for Broadcasting & Cable (10/20/97), adults gave TV a letter grade based on how well TV fulfills its role “to teach character and values to children and teens.”  The results: 10% gave As; 13% Bs; 25% Cs; 22% Ds and 29% Fs.

Author: Morality in Media   2011

Further Reading