Hollywood's striking film and TV writers appear to have won the first round in the battle for public opinion.
Almost 2 out of 3 Americans, or 63%, said they were more inclined to side with writers in their dispute with major studios, according to a survey by Pepperdine University's Graziadio School of Business Management that is scheduled to be released today.
Writers went on strike last week amid disputes over pay when their work is distributed on the Internet and via cellphones and other new-media devices.
Only 4% of 1,000 American adults polled favored studios in the dispute, and 33% were unsure, according to the online survey. And 47% thought writers deserved the largest share of residual payments, compared with 26% for actors, 25% for producers and 2% for directors, the study found.
"It is not uncommon for the public to be sympathetic toward the side striking in a labor dispute," said David Smith, a labor economist at Pepperdine. "However, it is somewhat surprising to see overwhelming support from Americans for the creative side of the industry."
Smith said the public support could wane if the strike disrupted consumers' TV viewing habits. Though several shows have stopped shooting, viewers won't notice much change until early next year, when reruns, sports and reality shows replace scripted programs.
When asked about the prospect of reruns replacing new shows, 42% of the respondents said they would read more, and 35% said they would spend more time on the Internet.
Barbara Brogliatti, spokeswoman for the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, said the findings weren't surprising. "You'd expect nothing less when the only real information the public is getting is from sound bites and the issues are as complex as these," she said.