In a Roper Poll taken March 18-25, Americans ranked public TV and public radio among the services that provide the best value for the tax dollar.
Only military defense of the country and the police had higher percentages of the sample calling them an "excellent value'' or a "good value.'' Highways, public schools, environmental protection and the court system ranked lower.
The pollsters asked: "Here is a list of some different services that the government provides using tax dollars it collects from the public. Thinking of what you get for what you pay in taxes, would you read down that list and for each one tell me whether you feel you get excellent value for the dollar, or good value, or only fair value for the dollar, or poor value for the dollar?"
These were the results:
|Rank||Services provided with tax dollars||Percent excellent or good value|
|1||Military defense of the country||60|
|2||Police and law enforcement agencies||59|
|3||Public TV broadcasting||57|
|4||Public radio broadcasting||53|
|5||Medical, technological,d other research||52|
|6||Overseeing the safety of food products||50|
|7||The space program||49|
|8||Overseeing safety of prescription drugs||49|
|9||Highways, roads and bridges||45|
|13||Sponsorship of the arts||39|
|14||Overseeing soundness of financial institutions||35|
|16||International intelligence gathering||31|
|17||Contributions to the United Nations||30|
|18||Social welfare programs||28|
"Quite frankly, I was really surprised,'' said CPB researcher Janice Jones. "I knew that people value public television, but there are a lot of core services on that list.''
CPB received the poll results as a regular subscriber to the Roper Poll last month, but the survey firm had added pubcasting to the annual question without CPB asking it to do so, Jones said.
Other tax-supported services had been rated in the poll for many years. The biggest changes between 1986 and 1995 showed environmental protection up 14 points, public transportation up 12, roads and bridges up 11, the police up 9 and military defense up 8 points. Even social welfare programs rose 4 points during that period.
In the poll, public TV was scored an "excellent value'' by 13 percent, "good'' by 44 percent, "fair'' by 24 percent and "poor'' by just 10 percent. Eight percent said "don't know.''
Public radio got similar scores: "excellent value,'' 10 percent; "good,'' 43 percent; "fair,'' 28 percent; "poor,'' 10 percent, and "don't know,'' 10 percent.
Public TV's "excellent value'' rating (13 percent) was exceeded only by military defense (17 percent) and the space program (14 percent).
The percentage of respondents who rated public TV and radio as a "poor value'' for the tax dollar, 10 percent, was lower than all other services except defense and international intelligence gathering.