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BIG CALL-IN TO LIBYA POLL SURPRISES KNX AND KABC

Times Staff Writer

It came as no thundering surprise to KNX-AM (1070) and KABC-AM (790) that listeners approved the U.S. bombing of Libya by almost a three-to-one margin this week. But the fact that calls came in by the thousands to listener phone-poll surveys that the two stations conducted Tuesday and Wednesday did astonish station management.

In the case of KNX, the huge response has established its poll as a permanent part of the station’s programming.

“We did one (a listener poll) a couple of years ago, but we did not get this kind of response,” said KNX Assistant News Director Roger Nadel. “My guess is . . . given this kind of response, we’re going to look for a lot more opportunities to do this with national issues and with local issues too.”

From 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. Wednesday, KNX invited listeners to call one of two 900 numbers to answer the question, “Do you approve of the U.S. decision to attack targets in Libya?” During the 12-hour period, 13,373 listeners called in.

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“The final figures broke down with 68.6% answering yes and 31.4%, no,” Nadel said. “Each of those callers paid 50 cents to make the call (the standard charge for a call to a 900 number). It is not a free call and normally when you put a charge on something, it has a tendency to deter people from responding. But that was not the case this time.”

Though the caller response was not as heavy at KABC, the questions asked during the morning “Ken & Bob Show” and the Michael Jackson program on Tuesday was virtually the same: “Do you support the President’s action toward Libya?”

About 1,000 listeners responded during the “Ken & Bob Show,” from 5 a.m. to 9 a.m., according to KABC Assistant Program Director Michael S. Fox. A total of 79% approved, 19% disapproved and about 2% were undecided. From 9 a.m. to 11 a.m., 1,040 listeners called during “The Michael Jackson Show” with a similar percentage breakdown: 72% for and 27% against with 1% undecided.

“I think it tells us that obviously the great majority of people do support the Libyan action, particularly after having witnessed terrorist activity the last two or three years and not being able to do anything about it,” Fox said.

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Neither poll pretends to be scientific, but both Fox and Nadel are quick to point out how closely the results compared to samplings done by CBS/New York Times and ABC/Washington Post pollsters. Both of those polls indicated that the U.S. bombing of Libya was approved by a large majority of Americans.

“The President’s action in Libya gave people a way of venting their feelings,” Fox said. “During the hostage crisis in Iran, they couldn’t vent feelings. But our listeners are apparently among the great majority who feel this was right. It’s kind of a public catharsis.”

On days when major news breaks, such as the air attack against Libya and the space shuttle explosion, “people turn in droves to news stations,” he said.

“On the day of the shuttle accident, our ratings shot up to a 17.9 (Arbitron listener share),” he said. Normally, KNX’s Arbitron rating hovers around the 3.0 mark.

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Nadel said the station will probably poll listeners on less pressing matters too, including local, state and regional issues, such as Metrorail or environmental problems.

KABC has opened its phone lines semi-regularly to listener call-in voting for nearly two years, but the Libyan response will not raise it to regular programming feature status, Fox said. Originally called “Insta-poll” until station management discovered that KABC-TV Channel 7 had the name trademarked, the renamed KABC “Talkradio Poll” will still be reserved only for major news issues, Fox said. Infrequent use of the poll will preserve the poll’s novelty and prevent “frivolity” in survey results, he said.


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