Strike support steadfast as job casualties rise

Ten weeks into the writers strike, the community still feels the action was justified, but there’s an overwhelming sense that the writers will eventually wind up on the losing end of a deal and that the personal cost of the work stoppage is mounting fast. That’s the upshot of the latest survey of Variety subscribers conducted by Frank N. Magid Associates.

The online survey of 616 Variety subscribers, conducted Dec. 26-31, followed up on many of the same questions asked of subscribers in a Variety/Magid survey conducted Nov. 16-21 in an effort to gauge industry perceptions of the strike (Daily Variety, Nov. 26).

Survey respondents were very divided on key questions, such as whether the Directors Guild of America should have waited longer before signaling its intent to begin its own contract negotiations with Hollywood’s majors this month; whether the WGA should picket awards shows; or whether the major latenight skeins should have waited longer before returning to production this week.

And the financial hardships caused by the strike have become significantly more pervasive. In the latest survey, 26% of respondents said they have lost their jobs because of the strike, compared with 16% in the November survey.

Despite the continued support for the WGA’s decision to go out on Nov. 5 — the percentage of those who agreed that the strike was necessary increased 3% from the November survey to 64% of respondents — fewer people believe the strike will be resolved in the writers’ favor as compared with the November survey, even among respondents who identified themselves as WGA members.

More respondents say they view the WGA in a more negative light since the strike began and since the previous survey.

Of the 616 respondents, 20% identified themselves as WGA members; 14% were SAG members; 9% were DGA members; and 8% were IATSE members. In the November survey of 999 subscribers, 15% of respondents identified themselves as WGA members; 10% were SAG members, 9% were DGA members; and 7% were IATSE members.

Among all respondents, 64% agree that the strike was necessary, compared with 61% in the November survey. That sentiment has decreased slightly among DGA members (61% vs. 63% in November) but has grown among IATSE members (56% vs. 49%) and held fast among SAG members at 78%.

Respondents who identified themselves as executives are most likely to take a dim view of the strike, with 52% disagreeing that the strike was necessary while 40% agreed. WGA members remain overwhelmingly in support of the strike, with 86% agreeing that the strike was necessary, compared with 84% of WGA respondents in the November survey.

The town’s opinions have budged a bit since the November survey on the question of whether the WGA’s decision to go on strike was a “tactical mistake.”

Among all respondents, 57% said no while 35% said yes — not much different than the divide in November (57%-31%). WGA respondents are holding fast, with only 16% agreeing that going on strike was a tactical miscue.

But among DGA respondents, 42% now agree it was a tactical mistake, compared with 34% in November. Doubts among SAG members are also rising, with 25% agreeing that the strike was a tactical mistake, compared with 15% in November. Half of IATSE members are convinced the work stoppage was a tactical error, inching up to 50% from 47% in the November survey.

Moreover, there’s a growing sense of gloom about what the strike will eventually yield for the scribe tribe. Only 9% of the total think the strike will be resolved in the writers’ favor, while 57% say it will be resolved in the companies’ favor — compared with 20% who believed it would end in the writers’ favor in the November survey.

Even among writers, the pessimism appears to be growing, with only 10% of WGA respondents believing that it will end in the writers’ favor compared with 22% in November.

Not surprisingly, opinions on specific issues raised by the strike vary significantly along Hollywood’s partisan lines.

  • On whether the DGA should’ve waited to begin its own contract negotiations, 36% of all respondents said yes, while 41% said no. Writers are most likely (58% of WGA respondents) to say that the DGA should’ve waited, while 54% of DGA members support their guild’s decision to move forward. Nearly half, or 48%, of IATSE members agree with the DGA’s move, but only 27% of SAG members concur. As to whether the WGA should accept the terms of whatever deal the DGA may strike with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, respondents agree that the devil is in the details, with 65% of all those surveyed saying it “depends on the settlement.”

  • On whether awards shows should be the target of WGA pickets, 48% of all respondents said yes, 45% said no. WGA members support the awards show picketing to the tune of 69%, but SAG respondents are divided, with 51% saying yes and 39% saying no, as were DGA respondents (47% yes, 42% no) and IATSE respondents (44% yes, 52% no). Executive respondents overwhelmingly (66%) believe the WGA should hold its picket fire on awards nights.

Half of all respondents believe the WGA should hold firm and not grant waivers to awards shows, despite the guild’s decision to do so for the SAG Awards and Spirit honors. WGA respondents overwhelmingly vote no on waivers. DGA respondents are split down the middle (46%-46%), while just over half of IATSE (52%) and SAG (53%) respondents are against the idea of waivers.

  • There’s also a deep divide on the question of whether latenight shows should have waited longer before resuming production, with 47% of all respondents saying the shows should have waited longer and 45% disagreeing. WGA members (67%) were most likely to oppose their return, while among the unions, IATSE respondents (58%) were the most supportive of the decision to return. SAG and DGA members were split on the question, with 51% of SAG members and 49% of DGA-ers saying they should’ve waited. Executives were overwhelmingly (72%) on board with the decision to return.

  • There’s significant agreement across the unions that with no talks on the horizon with the AMPTP, the WGA should make interim agreements with individual production entities, as it did last week with David Letterman’s Worldwide Pants banner. More than two-thirds (68%) of all respondents say the WGA should cut interim deals. More than 70% of WGA, DGA and SAG member respondents agree, and 62% of IATSE respondents agree. Executives, on the other hand, are cooler to the idea, with 55% saying yes and 29% saying no.

Nearly half (48%) of all respondents said their view of the WGA hasn’t changed since the strike began, while 27% said they see the guild in a more “negative light” and 23% say they see the WGA in a more “positive light.” The guild’s poll numbers have dropped since the November survey, when 29% of all respondents said they saw the WGA in a more positive light since the strike began.

Executives were most likely to say they’re taking a dimmer view of the WGA, with 49% saying their opinion of the guild has gone south since the strike began, while 43% of execs say their opinion hasn’t changed.

Negative perceptions of the AMPTP have also inched up since the November survey. Among all respondents, 52% see the AMPTP in a more negative light since the strike began (compared with 50% of respondents in November), while 40% say their opinion hasn’t changed (compared with 44% in November).

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