Movie Violence No Problem, Say Poll Respondents

Twenty years ago, 60% of Americans said they would hesitate to see a movie if it were excessively violent. But according to an Associated Press poll released last week, a steady diet of action films over the last two decades have had a marked effect: Now, only 40% say that too much violence would keep them out of the theater.

A June 25-29 telephone poll of more than 1000 citizens by ICR of Media, Pennsylvania, revealed the 33% reduction in sensitivity to movie violence. The poll also showed that only one-third believe violence is the biggest problem in movies. The same proportion claimed that tickets are too expensive. Seventeen percent of respondents said that current movies aren't as good as they used to be, and 13% said there is too much sex onscreen.

The poll, taken in the wake of several school shootings (including the one at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado, which took 15 lives), claims an error rate of ±3%. Theater owners convened in Washington, DC, and agreed to be stricter about enforcing age limits at the box office---an effort that 45% of poll respondents said would provide little or no benefit. After the Littleton massacre, legislators also made plenty of noise about the effects of violence in the media without actually doing much to change it.

Those most likely to avoid violent films are women and older Americans, according to the survey. Approximately half of the women surveyed said violence would keep them away, but only 30% of the men said so. Of those aged 65 and older, 66% said violence would probably prevent them from buying tickets. Whites (42%) were more likely than blacks (28%) to be bothered by movie violence. Familiarity apparently leads to insensitivity: Infrequent moviegoers (those who see "a couple of movies per year") were more likely to shun violent films than those who go to the theater often. Thirty-seven percent of respondents said they hadn't set foot in a theater in the last 12 months, and 22% said they had seen only one or two films in that time.