Mitt Romney's backhanded compliment to Big Bird and Jim Lehrer might have been one of the buzzier moments of last week's debate, but it's not a winning issue for the Republican presidential nominee, according to a poll released Tuesday by JZ Analytics and The Washington Times.
Fifty-five percent of likely voters, including about a third of Republicans, said PBS was a worthy cause for taxpayers' dollars, while 35 percent said the government couldn't afford to subsidize public television.
The poll surveyed 800 likely voters by phone between Oct. 5 and Oct. 7, with a 3 percent margin of error.
Public television has been in the spotlight since Romney called for defunding PBS during the debate, telling moderator Jim Lehrer, "I'm sorry, Jim, I'm going to stop the subsidy to PBS. I like PBS. I love Big Bird. I like you too."
In a statement released after the debate, PBS said it was disappointed that it had become a "political target," and noted another study showing broad voter support:
A national survey by the bipartisan research firms of Hart Research and American Viewpoint in 2011 found that over two-thirds of American voters (69%) oppose proposals to eliminate government funding of public broadcasting, with Americans across the political spectrum against such a cut.
The Obama campaign also released an ad attacking Romney for the line, but the campaign was chastised by Sesame Workshop for the move.
"We are a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization. We do not comment on campaigns, but we’re happy we can all agree that everyone likes Big Bird!" Sesame Workshop said in a tweet.
Well, not quite everyone. A poll in Wisconsin by the Democratic firm PPP found that 51 percent of likely voters had favorable opinions of Big Bird, making him more popular in the state than either Obama or Romney. Eleven percent had unfavorable views, while 39 percent said they weren't sure how they felt about Big Bird.