Despite its continuing success with the box-office electorate, “Fahrenheit 9/11,” Michael Moore’s sharply satirical attack on President Bush and his administration, appears to be wielding less influence among potential voters than the filmmaker and his supporters might have hoped, a Los Angeles Times Poll has found.
The survey found that “Fahrenheit” is drawing an overwhelmingly Democratic audience, and of the Republicans who have ventured to see it, few appear to be swayed.
One of those polled, 27- year-old Thomas Winney, a Republican construction worker who saw the movie in Washington, Mo., said it had no effect on how he views the election. “It didn’t change my mind at all,” Winney said, noting that he was and remains a Bush supporter. “Kerry says one thing one time, and another thing the next time.”
Of the 1,529 registered voters surveyed in the poll, conducted nationwide July 17-21, 9% had seen Moore’s film, which has taken in more than $97 million since it opened last month and established itself as the highest-grossing feature-length documentary ever. Of those who have seen the movie, 78% identified themselves as Democrats, 9% as independents and 6% as Republicans.
Predictably, the vast majority of those who had seen the film -- 92% -- said they were planning to vote for Sen. John F. Kerry and Sen. John Edwards for president. Only 3% planned to vote for Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney.
Seventy-nine percent of those who had seen “Fahrenheit” said the film would not change their November votes; 18% said it made them more likely to vote against Bush; and 3% said it bolstered their resolve to vote for him.
Because the “Fahrenheit” questions were asked only of registered voters, it was not possible to determine whether the film was prompting people to sign up to vote for the first time.
Moore closes the film with the message “Do something.” At a celebrity-studded Beverly Hills screening of the film last month, he said: “I hope this country will be back in our hands in a very short period of time.” He could not be reached for comment by press time Thursday.
Andrew Kohut, director of the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press, said he was not surprised that the film was appealing to a narrow political segment and added that it didn’t necessarily need to win over GOP voters in order to have an effect on the election.
“The important role [movies like this] play is that they are energizers for political points of view,” Kohut said. “Rush Limbaugh is important not because he converts people -- he can’t convert anyone. But he gets people riled up.”
Catherine Krause, a 20-year-old student in Houston, is among the choir to whom Moore is preaching. Even though she identified herself as a Republican, Krause said she went into “Fahrenheit” intending to vote against Bush -- and came out with the same opinion.
“I’m not a fan of the president,” Krause, one of the Times Poll respondents, said in an interview Thursday. “If Michael Moore had done the film more truthfully, I would have been more impressed with it. But I agree with the main premise.”
Overall, the Times Poll found that audience members had mixed feelings about the accuracy of Moore’s brand of documentary filmmaking. Nine percent found it “somewhat” or “completely” inaccurate. But despite attacks from conservative critics, most others granted it at least some credibility, with 31% calling it “completely accurate” and 58% calling it “somewhat accurate.” The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.
From its inception, Moore’s documentary has been enveloped in controversy. The Walt Disney Co., concerned about the film’s partisan political nature, prevented its Miramax Films subsidiary from releasing it, and Miramax co-founders Bob and Harvey Weinstein spent $6 million buying the movie back from their studio.
Since its release, the film has generated as many spats as it has box-office records. On Saturday, Linda Ronstadt was escorted from the Aladdin Hotel in Las Vegas after she praised Moore during a concert. The filmmaker sent her flowers that were delivered onstage, to great applause, at the Universal Amphitheatre in Los Angeles two nights later.
For all the contentiousness it has stirred up, “Fahrenheit” has reaped many benefits, winning the top award at the Cannes film festival and, in the face of summer blockbuster competition, has remained among the top five most popular films since it opened in late June.
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The pulse of ÔFahrenheitÕ
Q: Have you been to a movie theater to see Michael MooreÕs film ÒFahrenheit 9/11Ó? Are you planning to see it?
Saw it: 9% Plan to: 26% Haven’t seen and not intending: 57% Haven’t heard about the movie: 4% Not sure: 4%
Among those who had seen the film
Democrat: 78% Independent: 9% Republican: 6% Other: 7%
Due to rounding, the one ÒrefusedÓ response is not reflected.
Q: After seeing ÒFahrenheit 9/11,Ó are you more likely or less likely to vote for George W. Bush for president in November, or did seeing the movie not make any difference as to how you will vote?
More likely: 3% No difference: 79% Less likely: 18%
How the Poll Was Conducted The Times Poll contacted 1,788 adults nationwide, including 1,529 registered voters. Interviews were conducted by telephone July 17 through 21, 2004. Telephone numbers were chosen from a list of all exchanges in the nation and random digit dialing techniques were used to allow listed and unlisted numbers to be contacted. Adults were weighted slightly to conform with their respective census figures for sex, race, age, and education. The margin of sampling error for registeredÊvotersÊis plus or minus 3 percentage points. For certain subgroups, the error margin may be somewhat higher.Ê Poll results may also be affected by factors such as question wording and the order in which questions are presented.