Sunday, June 10, 2007

While Most Like Tony, New Jerseyans Like 'The Sopranos' Most

Friends of ours: Soprano Crime Family

Although both New Jerseyans and the rest of the nation like Tony Soprano, New Jerseyans watch the show set in their back yard more often and are more tolerant of its sharper edges, according to a new poll released today.

The poll by Fairleigh Dickinson University's PublicMind comes with HBO set to air the final episode of "The Sopranos" on Sunday. The survey compared New Jerseyans' views of "The Sopranos" to the nation's views and found everyone - by a 2-1 margin - wants to see Tony Soprano survive the end of the series.

Those who have watched many episodes are twice as likely as casual viewers to prefer that he live, although views are split among his continuing as a mobster, going to jail, turning honest and other ideas.

"Perhaps they see a glimmer of goodness in him," said Gary Radford, a communications professor at Fairleigh Dickinson. "Perhaps they identify with his constant struggle to keep his family and his business together in the jungle that is mob life."

New Jerseyans seem to really like the series set in their world. Three of five New Jersey voters have watched the show, compared to two of five nationally, with New Jerseyans more likely by a 54 percent to 30 percent margin to have watched "many episodes."

The poll found 90 percent of New Jerseyans know the show is set in their state, compared to 56 percent nationwide. And New Jerseyans are less likely to agree with charges the show is too sexually explicit, has excessive violence, glorifies organized crime and portrays Italian-Americans in a negative way.

For instance, 42 percent of New Jerseyans agree the show has vulgar and offensive language, compared to 47 percent nationwide. Also, 24 percent of New Jerseyans agree the show cast Italian-Americans in a negative light, compared to 27 percent nationwide.

William Roberts, chair of Fairleigh Dickinson's Public Administration Institute and author of several books on modern Italian history, is among those agreeing with that sentiment. "'The Sopranos' certainly showcased some of the best talent in the profession," he said. "However, the show helped to perpetuate one of the more problematic and stereotypical images of Italian-Americans."

The poll of 776 randomly selected voters nationwide and 602 New Jersey voters was conducted from May 29 through June 3 and has a sampling error margin of plus or minus 4 percentage points.

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