Sesame Street Sex Scandal, 'Hobbit' Animal Deaths and Returning 'Star Wars' Stars: THR Poll Results

Poll findings reveal startlingly different opinions between young and old viewers regarding "The Hobbit," "Star Wars" reboots and Sesame Street's fallen Elmo creator.

Americans are aware of animal cruelty on the set of The Hobbit and differ on whether Harrison Ford should play Han Solo again in Star Wars -- but few care about the Sesame Street puppeteer sex scandal, according to The Hollywood Reporter’s Nov. 26 Entertainment Issues Poll of a representative cross-section of Americans by Penn Schoen Berland.

Huge headlines about Kevin Clash, who resigned as puppeteer of Elmo on Sesame Street after he was accused of having sex with a minor, did surprisingly little damage to Elmo’s merchandising prospects. Even though two-thirds of those polled -- and three-quarters of parents -- had heard about the scandal, 81 percent said it would have zero impact on their decision to buy Elmo toys, books and videos this holiday season. (But nonwhites were more than twice as likely as whites to boycott Elmo stuff -- 30 percent versus 14 percent of whites. Perhaps the fact that Clash is black plays into this somehow.)

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After animal rights groups charged that mistreated animals died on the set of the The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (which producers emphatically deny), 85 percent of all respondents on THR’s poll said they would be no less likely to watch it. But viewers under 30 were almost twice as likely as those over 30 to let the allegation affect their decision to see The Hobbit (19 versus 11 percent). Of those who were affected, young people felt more strongly about it: Seven in 10 said they were much less interested in seeing the film after hearing the allegation. Less than half of over-30 viewers felt that strongly. The Lord of the Rings, to which The Hobbit is a prequel, is equally popular in each age group: an identical 64 percent of viewers under and over 30 call themselves fans.

Everybody loves hobbits. It is animal rights that separates the generations.
"I was surprised," says Penn Schoen Berland’s Amanda Brown. “I expected a lot more reaction to Hobbit animal cruelty charges from women. But men’s and women’s reaction was identical: 85 percent said it had no impact on whether they’d see it."
Age was also a bigger factor than sex in people’s response to the rumors that Ford, Carrie Fisher, and Mark Hamill may reprise their roles in the three forthcoming Star Wars films. Two-thirds of viewers over 30 demand that the new Star Wars flicks "stay as true to the originals as possible," and 4 in 10 of those over 30 say the return of the 1977 trio would make them much likelier to see the movies. So what if the combined age of Ford, Fisher and Hamill is 187?

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But those under 30 feel that the senior actors are way too long ago and far away to care about. Four in 10 want the new Star Wars films to "go in a whole new direction."
Another big divide -- big surprise -- is political. On THR’s poll, Obama voters were 36 percent more likely than Romney voters to want Star Wars to go in a whole new direction. Of Romney voters, 72 percent wanted it to "stay as true to the originals as possible."