PBS and Member Stations Are Named #1 in Public Trust and an “Excellent” Use of Tax Dollars for Ninth Consecutive Year

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National Research Also Confirms PBS KIDS as the Most Educational TV/Media Brand and the Safest On-Air and Online Destination for Children

ARLINGTON, VA – February 27, 2012 – Once again, national research has confirmed that PBS is the most trusted institution and is considered an “excellent” use of tax dollars – for the ninth consecutive year.(1)  PBS was also called the most fair network for news and public affairs. In addition, PBS KIDS was named the most educational TV/media brand, the safest destination for children to watch television or visit online and the top provider of content that helps children build reading and math skills.(3)

The research was conducted in January and February 2012 by the independent, non-partisan research companies Harris Interactive and ORC Online Caravan. Each year, PBS commissions research to measure its performance and value as judged by its most important stakeholder – the American public.

“The core of our success and the metrics that truly matter are the trust and value the people of our nation place in PBS, local PBS stations and our collective work,” said PBS President and CEO Paula Kerger. “We’ve had an outstanding year, including an increase in primetime and children’s ratings, expanding our mission through digital platforms, the launch of our station-based classroom resource, PBS LearningMedia, and more. Yet this is the true proof of performance for us.”

PBS Ranks #1 in Public Trust – Twice the Level of Trust Than Courts of Law
More than 3 in 4 people trust PBS (76% “trust a great deal” or “trust somewhat”). The 2012 study marks the ninth time in a row that PBS was called the nation’s most-trusted institution. The study found that respondents had twice the level of trust in PBS (26% “trust a great deal”) over the nearest institution, Courts of Law (13% “trust a great deal”).(1)

PBS Considered Top Use of Tax Dollars
Only military defense outranked PBS as the best value for the American tax dollar. Over two-thirds of those polled (64%) called PBS an “excellent” (20%) or “good” (44%) use of their tax dollars. Military defense was described as “excellent” or “good” by 73% (31% “excellent” or 42% “good”).
• Nearly 3 in 4 participants (74%) believe federal funding for PBS is money well spent.(3)

PBS Named the Most Fair Network
4 in 10 respondents (40%) called PBS’ news coverage, investigations and discussions of issues “mostly fair” (when asked to choose among “liberal,” “mostly fair” and “conservative”). PBS outscored all other sources in the “mostly fair” category, including ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, MSNBC and FOX News.(2)
Less than one-third (32%) described PBS as “liberal.” Every other source besides FOX News was considered more liberal than PBS.(2)

PBS Leads in Addressing Important Issues
PBS received high marks for the effectiveness of its programming for children and adults in terms of handling important topics. A majority of respondents believed PBS programming addressed key subjects – from providing access to the arts and improving literacy to providing access to a variety of viewpoints either “very well” or “well.”
•    Provide people access to arts and culture – 67%
•    Promote an understanding of American history – 62%
•    Inform people of America’s ethnic and cultural diversity – 60%
•    Promote an understanding of science and technology – 60%
•    Improve literacy – 59%
•    Provide access to a variety of viewpoints – 54%
•    Inform people of important political and social issues – 51%
•    Inform people about health issues – 51%

PBS KIDS Called #1 Educational TV/Media Brand, Top Builder of Critical Skills, and Safest On-Air and Online Destination
A strong majority – 62% – named PBS KIDS the most educational TV/media brand. The second most highly rated was Disney, which was considered most educational by 13%.(2)
8 in 10 people (80%) agreed “strongly or somewhat” that “PBS helps prepare children for success in school and life.” This statement was equated with cable television and commercial broadcast television by 37% and 34% of participants, respectively.(3)
Eighty-four percent (84%) agreed “strongly or somewhat” that PBS “helps children improve their reading and math skills.” Cable and commercial broadcast television received this rating from 40% and 30% of respondents, respectively.(3)
Eighty-eight percent (88%) agreed “strongly or somewhat” that PBS “is a trusted and safe place for children to watch television.” Only 34% and 36% of respondents agreed with this statement regarding cable and commercial broadcast television, respectively.(3)
Eight-five percent (85%) agreed “strongly or somewhat” that PBS “is a trusted and safe place for children to visit online,” while this statement was attributed to cable television and commercial broadcasters by only 31% and 34% of the sample, respectively.(3)
Eighty-three percent (83%) agreed “strongly or somewhat” that PBS is "the innovator" in children’s educational media. 37% percent and 27% of participants also applied this statement to cable and commercial broadcast television, respectively.
PBS’ purpose is to educate, inform and inspire with essential non-commercial programming that enlarges people's sense of the world. Public television fulfills its essential mission to the American public, providing trusted content that is uniquely different from commercial broadcasting, treating its audiences as citizens, not simply consumers.

Full results are available here: Icon 2012 Trust Survey Brochure (16.6 MB)

Survey Methodology

(1) “Trust Tracker” study was conducted online within the United States by Harris Interactive on behalf of PBS from January 20- 24, 2012 among 2,500 adults ages 18 and older; Opinion Research omnibus survey, March 2011; Roper Public Opinion Poll, 2004-2010.
(2) The supplemental survey to the “Trust Tracker” study conducted online within the United States by ORC International on behalf of PBS from January 12-15 2012, among 1,027 adults ages 18 and older.
(3) The “Importance” study survey was conducted online within the United States by Harris Interactive on behalf of PBS from January 23-25, 2012 among 2,217 adults ages 18 and older and also from February 15-17, 2012 among 2,500 adults ages 18 and older.

For complete survey methodology, including weighting variables, please contact Jan McNamara, PBS Corporate Communications, jmcnamara@pbs.org or 703-739-5028.

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About PBS
PBS, with its nearly 360 member stations, offers all Americans the opportunity to explore new ideas and new worlds through television and online content. Each month, PBS reaches nearly 123 million people through television and more than 21 million people online, inviting them to experience the worlds of science, history, nature and public affairs; to hear diverse viewpoints; and to take front-row seats to world-class drama and performances. PBS’ broad array of programs has been consistently honored by the industry’s most coveted award competitions. Teachers of children from pre-K through 12th grade turn to PBS for digital content and services that help bring classroom lessons to life. PBS’ premier children’s TV programming and its website, pbskids.org, are parents’ and teachers’ most trusted partners in inspiring and nurturing curiosity and love of learning in children. More information about PBS is available at pbs.org, one of the leading dot-org websites on the Internet, or by following PBS on Twitter, Facebook or through our apps for mobile devices. Specific program information and updates for press are available at pbs.org/pressroom or by following PBS Pressroom on Twitter.

About Harris
Harris Interactive is one of the world’s leading custom market research firms, leveraging research, technology, and business acumen to transform relevant insight into actionable foresight. Known widely for the Harris Poll and for pioneering innovative research methodologies, Harris offers expertise in a wide range of industries including healthcare, technology, public affairs, energy, telecommunications, financial services, insurance, media, retail, restaurant, and consumer package goods. Serving clients in over 215 countries and territories through our North American and European offices and a network of independent market research firms, Harris specializes in delivering research solutions that help us – and our clients – stay ahead of what’s next. For more information, please visit www.harrisinteractive.com.

About ORC Caravan
ORC International is a leading global research firm with offices across the U.S., Europe and Asia Pacific. The Company offers a platform of integrated intelligence that combines forward thinking methodologies, cutting-edge technology, skilled researchers and in-depth industry experience to provide clients with valuable insight to help solve their most pressing business challenges. ORC International is a founding member of the Council of American Survey Research Organizations (CASRO) and is a proud partner of CNN on the CNN|ORC International poll since 2006.

Jan McNamara