Even Trump Voters Oppose Defunding PBS

A new survey from bipartisan researchers shows 73 percent of all polled voters are against pulling money from public broadcasting.
Courtesy of PBS
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As uncertainty looms over how the Trump administration will handle federal funding for public broadcasting, a new survey shows that Americans overwhelmingly want PBS to stay untouched.

Per the joint study by Republican pollsters American Viewpoint and Democratic Hart Research Associates, 73 percent of the U.S. voting public oppose the elimination of federal funds for PBS. The poll, conducted on behalf of public television, found that while left-leaning voters are more unanimous in their protection of PBS, a decisive majority of GOP voters feel the same way. Eighty-three percent of Democrats oppose defunding, while 62 percent of Republicans do.

“Our survey finds that while the country may be deeply divided on many issues, the importance of federal funding for public television is not one of them," reads a joint memo from the bipartisan study. "In fact, with remarkable consistency, majorities of voters of all political stripes support federal funding for public television and do not want to see it eliminated. Voters see public television as a good value proposition for the American taxpayer, and express high levels of concern about the consequences should federal funding for public television be eliminated."

Independents also overwhelmingly oppose defunding by 82 percent. In terms of the most recent election, 86 percent of those who voted for Hillary Clinton oppose any defunding, while 59 percent of Donald Trump voters feel the same way.

In January, PBS president and CEO Paula Kerger said it was "too early to tell" what Trump means for public broadcasting, but that those hurt by any potential defunding would be those in the further reaches of the U.S. in places like Alaska and the plains states. Kerger pointed out that just 15 percent of PBS' budget comes from government funds and is almost entirely directed at individual stations and not the larger entity. "What happens if that goes away? The reason we fight very hard is because it's an aggregate number," she said. "For stations, particularly in rural areas like Alaska, the percentage of the station's budget that's from the government is as high as 50 percent."

According to PBS, public broadcasting costs the average American a nominal $1.35 a year in taxes.

Even more telling might be the volume of people who say they would take action if defunding comes on the table. Eighty-three percent percent of all voters — including 73 percent of Trump voters and 93 percent of Clinton voters — responded that they would tell their representatives to find other places in the budget to save money.

The study comes amid murmurs that President Trump has plans to gut federal funds to the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities, while also trying to privatize the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

While GOP voters may have no issues with PBS getting taxpayer money, the stations have frequently been a target of Republican politicians — long before Trump. Mitt Romney, the GOP presidential candidate in 2012, famously said during a debate with President Barack Obama that he'd stop any PBS subsidy if elected, even at the expensive of Sesame Street character Big Bird.