Say what? The cost of poorly-chosen words

June 11, 2018

The level of discourse in our nation didn’t need to go any lower—but it did in recent weeks, as two female comics with eponymously named TV shows—Roseanne Barr and Samantha Bee—spewed racist and vulgar sentiments about other women in the public eye.

Roseanne’s show was cancelled immediately by ABC-TV. Full Frontal with Samantha Bee remains on-air at TBS —and subject to both ratings, as well as sponsors’ opinions. Based on findings of a YouGov poll released on June 8, neither of them has come out unscathed: 55% of Americans say that Roseanne’s comments about former Obama advisor Valerie Jarrett were offensive, while 43% believe that Samantha’s jab at First Daughter Ivanka Trump was out of line.

The reason for the different amounts of outrage simply may be TV viewership. First, Roseanne had the highest-rated new show of the season—and fully 49% of the poll respondents said they had heard “a lot”  about the comments on her Twitter account, while Jarrett show is lesser-known and just 32% of the American public was immediately aware of her reference to Trump’s favorite child

Second, Roseanne Barr and Samantha Bee have very different audiences. Republicans are more likely than Democrats to have watched the Roseanne reboot, which was the highest rated new show of the season; fewer Americans watch Full Frontal with Samantha Bee, but those who do tend to be more Democratic than not.

The two audiences don’t overlap all that much. Most of those who have watched Full Frontal have not watched Rosanne, and vice versa. There are large partisan differences in opinion about the two women, although overall opinion of both is more negative than positive. Democrats have a favorable view of Bee (39% to 13%), while Republicans are overwhelmingly negative (65% to 9%). Conversely, 51% of the country has an unfavorable opinion of Barr, with Democrats even more negative towards her (69% unfavorable to 18% favorable). Republicans in this week’s poll are narrowly favorable toward Barr; although the percentage of Republicans with an unfavorable opinion of her has increased by 14 points since early April, before the controversy.

Large majorities believe both women did the right thing by apologizing, Barr to Jarrett and Bee to Trump. But both apologies are not being taken at face value. More than twice as many people think Bee’s apology was not sincere as say it was; just under twice as many say Barr’s apology lacked sincerity as think it had it. 

Viewers of both shows remain supporters. Nearly six out of ten (58%) Roseanne viewers still would like to tune in to the show; while a full 64% of Samantha Bee’s fans still enjoy Full Frontal.

YouGov points out that the policy issue that Samantha Bee was discussing when she used the vulgar description was an immigration policy that separates children from their parents if they are caught crossing the border illegally. Americans take a hard line on illegal entry to the nation. By 50% to 35%, they approve of jailing all those who cross the border illegally. A majority agrees with Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ statement: “If you don’t want your child to be separated, then don’t bring them across the border illegally.”

However,t both Republicans and Democrats would prefer to keep families together, either by releasing them with a date to report back (the Democrats’ preference), or housing families together in a detention center (the GOP choice).

Research contact: kfrankovic@yahoo.com

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