Barr and Bee: The cost of poorly-chosen words

Most Americans have heard at least something about both comic's controversial comments

Two women. Two television shows. Two insults. Two comics with negative ratings.

Roseanne Barr and Samantha Bee have very different audiences. Republicans are more likely than Democrats to have watched the Roseanne reboot, which was the highest rated new show of the season; fewer Americans watch Full Frontal with Samantha Bee, but those who do tend to be more Democratic than not.

Barr’s tweet attacking former Obama advisor Valerie Jarrett got a lot more attention than Bee’s vulgar criticism of First Daughter Ivanka Trump. In the latest Economist/YouGov Poll, half the public said they had heard “a lot” about Barr’s tweet; just a third had heard a lot about Bee’s remark.

But both women’s comments didn’t go over well with the public. Bee’s comment is seen as offensive by more than three times as many people as say it was not (43% to 12%). 55% said Barr’s tweet was offensive, 12% disagreed.

But those who watch Full Frontal at least some of the time are as likely to say Bee’s statement wasn’t offensive as to think it was. Barr’s tweet was heard differently. It was just as likely to be seen as offensive by the broader audience who had watched her new season of shows as by those who did not. The two audiences don’t overlap all that much. Most of those who have watched Full Frontal have not watched Rosanne, and vice versa. There are large partisan differences in opinion about the two women, though overall opinion of both is more negative than positive. Democrats have a favorable view of Bee (39% to 13%), while Republicans are overwhelmingly negative (65% to 9%). 51% of the country has an unfavorable opinion of Barr, with Democrats even more negative towards her (69% unfavorable to 18% favorable). Republicans in this week’s poll are narrowly favorable towards Barr, though the percentage of Republicans with an unfavorable opinion of her has increased by 14 points since early April, before the controversy.

Large majorities believe both women did the right thing by apologizing, Barr to Jarrett and Bee to Trump. But both apologies are not being taken at face value. More than twice as many people think Bee’s apology was not sincere as say it was; just under twice as many say Barr’s apology lacked sincerity as think it had it.

The question, however, is whether these women should have a show. ABC canceled the Rosanne show; TBS has so far also apologized and stands behind Full Frontal. The public overall is divided on whether or not ABC did the right thing in canceling Barr’s show (though most of those who watched it disapprove of the cancellation). The same is true of opinion about whether Samantha Bee’s show should be canceled in reaction to her use of a vulgarity in describing the President’s daughter. Overall, Americans are divided on the question but those who watch Full Frontal overwhelmingly disagree, and would not cancel it.The policy issue that Samantha Bee was discussing when she used the vulgar description was an immigration policy to separate children from their parents if they are caught crossing the border illegally. Americans take a hard line on illegal entry to the U.S. By 50% to 35%, they approve of jailing all those who cross the border illegally. A majority agrees with Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ statement: “If you don’t want your child to be separated, then don’t bring them across the border illegally.”

But Americans are divided on whether this policy will discourage illegal immigration. They disapprove of separating parents from children 53% to 32% (Republicans are on the opposite side: by two to one, they approve of separation). But both Republicans and Democrats would prefer keeping families together, either by releasing them with a date to report back (the Democrats’ preference), or housing families together in a detention center (the GOP choice).

Read more topline and tables results here.

Photo: Getty