New Poll Highlights Generation Gap on Arts Funding

July 7, 2008 - 8:02 PM

( - Cutting funding for controversial arts projects is a perfectly acceptable exercise of control over tax dollars, but First Amendment concerns are equally important to voters, a new public opinion poll has found.

"Our poll results on the Brooklyn Museum flap were surprising because we expected the spending issue to resonate more with people," Charlie Nave, vice president with Fabrizio McLaughlin and Associates, a public research organization which conducted a poll of 1,000 registered voters between Oct. 19 - 21, told

Some 45 percent of those surveyed on the Brooklyn Museum of Art controversy agreed with the propositions that "cutting funding is wrong because it is censorship," while 49 percent said "cutting funding is acceptable because taxpayers should not be forced to subsidize art they find offensive."

The survey referred to "public funding for the Brooklyn Museum of Art which sponsored a modern art exhibit that includes a picture of the Virgin Mary covered in animal feces."

"We were shocked that a piece of art we described I believe pretty fairly was able to get that much support," Nave said.

Older voters, those traditionally most likely to vote, are most likely to believe that cutting funding is a perfectly acceptable exercise of discretionary control over tax dollars, the survey found.

"I think this shows that where spending is concerned, a lot of rock bottom issues are based on the economy, and if the economy had been worse off, people would be incensed that their money was being taxed away from their personal uses and blown on something like this. That was a bit of a shocker to me," Nave said.

"But the poll also shows this is still an evolving issue," Nave said. "The American public really hasn't made up its mind one way or another. While they're upset about spending on anything they consider non-essential, they're willing to let their money be used as soon as someone's going to bring up concerns about the First Amendment."

The survey also sparked serious doubt about President Clinton's repeated insistence that he speaks for the American people when he lashes out against the House of Representatives. Voters were almost evenly split on who best represents their positions on policy issues - Clinton or House Republicans - the survey found.

"It's basically a tie between Clinton and the House GOP, with 45 percent for the House GOP and 43 percent for Clinton," Nave said.

"The finding is that despite all the media railing against the House Republicans and the extremism they are allegedly wedded to, half the country is backing them as opposed to Clinton.

"The bottom line is, this is evidence of divided government at work and we're not seeing much movement because the American people haven't reached any consensus," he said.

While the Democrats generally have had an advantage with women, Clinton had a larger than normal advantage among women, Nave said.

"Two months ago Bush was winning among women in head-to-head match ups with Gore, but his lead has been settling down a bit from the 20 point range to the 10 or 12 point range. So Gore is regaining a traditional Democrat edge with women.

"Any candidate with a D after their name will have an advantage with women, but Clinton is a special case. He's a very good politician and was able to over-perform in quite a few areas, and that was one of them. I don't see Gore having that magically handed to him. He's not going to inherit that, he's going to have to earn it," Nave said.