Public support for striking Hollywood actors and writers is broad, but not necessarily deep enough for most people to change their viewing habits, a new poll finds.
A majority (55%) of U.S. adults sympathize with the writers and actors in the months-long dispute than with the studios they’re striking against (3%), the poll from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research shows.
Half of Americans (50%) approve of writers and actors striking, while 40% are neutral on the topic, and 9% disapprove.
The more people said they had heard about the strike, the more likely they were to favor it. About six in 10 Americans have heard “a lot” or “some” about the labor strikes of writers and actors against Hollywood studios. People who have heard “a lot” or “some” about the strike are more likely than those who have heard less to approve (63% vs. 29%).
“I’m a big supporter of labor,” said one respondent, James Denton of Louisville, Kentucky, who said he strongly approves of the strikes and has followed them closely. “I’m a union member myself, my father was the president of a union, I believe in unions, they’re well worth the money.”
About a quarter (24%) of U.S. adults do not sympathize with either the writers and actors or the studios, and 18% are split between the sides.
Overall sympathy toward the writers and actors runs much more strongly among Democrats (70%), than Independents (47%) and Republicans (39%). Republicans (35%) are more likely than Democrats (15%) to say they sympathize with neither side.
When the questions move beyond approval toward potential actions favoring the strike, the support gets considerably softer.
One-third would consider boycotting TV shows, while even more (41%) would not. Slightly fewer (27%) said they would consider canceling streaming services, while 44% said they would not. Three in 10 Americans also said they would consider boycotting movie theaters, while 34% would not. The unions have yet to ask for any of these moves from consumers, though have said they might if the standoffs last long enough.
Denton, 77, said he would not consider such moves, but added that it wouldn’t matter much.
“I don’t watch anything anyway,” he said. “I don’t go to movies anymore.”
The poll was conducted September 7-11, as the Hollywood protests over pay and work protections stretched into their fifth month for writers and third month for actors. The Writers Guild of America has restarted negotiations with the alliance of studios and streaming services they’re striking against. The Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Radio and Television Artists are waiting in the wings.
While actors are usually the ones getting public adulation, many more think writers deserve a pay bump than they do actors.
Has Hollywood really shut down? The actors’ and writers’ unions are striking simultaneously for the first time in more than 60 years, causing major movies and shows to halt production. From anticipated sequels including “Deadpool 3” and “Beetlejuice 2” to TV hits “Stranger Things” and “Cobra Kai,” fans will likely have to wait longer than expected for their big and small-screen faves. SAG-AFTRA members hit the picket lines on July 14 after failed negotiations with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers. Both unions are taking a stand on a range of issues including AI use and streaming residuals. Comcast, the corporation which owns our parent company NBCUniversal, is one of the entertainment companies represented by the AMPTP. Some employees of the NBC News Group are represented by SAG-AFTRA.
A majority of Americans (56%) say it would be a good thing for screenwriters to be paid more, but only 38% say the same about actors’ compensation. Americans under 45 are more likely than older adults to call higher wages for actors a good thing (44% vs. 32%), but they are similarly likely to see higher pay for screenwriters favorably.
Along with compensation and job security, an issue at the center of both strikes is the use of artificial intelligence, or AI, in the creation of entertainment, and who will control it.
The poll showed that young people may actually be even more wary of the emerging technology than older adults. Americans under 45 years old are more likely than those 45 and older to say it would be good for studios to be prevented from replacing human writers with artificial intelligence (55% vs. 42%).
Overall, about half of U.S. adults (48%) say it would be a good thing if studios were prevented from replacing writers with AI. Alternatively, only 10% say it would be good for studios to use AI to help write movies and TV shows. Half (52%) say it would be a bad thing for studios to use AI in this way.
The poll of 1,146 adults was conducted Sept. 7-11, 2023, using a sample drawn from NORC’s probability-based AmeriSpeak Panel, which is designed to be representative of the U.S. population. The margin of sampling error for all respondents is plus or minus 3.9 percentage points.
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