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WBAI Subscribers Survey, January 2004

Who subscribes to WBAI? What shows do they like?

Now we can find out. A survey was sent to WBAI subscribers along with ballots in the first election for local station board in January 2004. The results are now available, thanks to Donna Gould, who collated and prepared the data. Thanks also to Roger Manning, Jonathan Goldberg and Amy Bauer, who helped. Wbai.net also thanks Steve Brown, who was the prime mover behind the survey in the first place.


By Donna Gould*


In 2004 a 19-item survey was sent out with the ballot for WBAI’s Local Station Board election. This report presents an analysis of the 1,977 surveys returned with the ballots.

· Respondents tended to be older rather than younger. Only 4% were under thirty, while 77% were over forty-five.
· They tended to be long time listeners. While there were very few new listeners among them, over 50% had been listening ten years or longer.
· The overwhelming majority of respondents described their ethnic background as either European (62%) or African (26%). Very few described their background as Latino or Asian.
· Yearly household income was fairly evenly distributed, ranging from less than $30,000 to over $80,000, with the greatest number of respondents reporting yearly household incomes between $30,000 and $60,000.
· Most respondents (82%) came from English only households. When a language other than English was spoken at home, it tended to be Spanish.
· Nearly half the respondents indicated that they had no religion. Those who claimed a religion were primarily Protestant, Jewish, or Catholic.

Program Preference:
In general, respondents preferred WBAI “strip programs”. The strongest preference was for Democracy Now- 67% mentioned it as a favorite program. Less frequently mentioned were Natural Living, Wake Up Call, Positive Mind, Talk Back, and the News. Notable exceptions to this tendency to prefer strip programs are the frequent preference for three programs which are on only one day a week: Taking Aim, Explorations, and Any Saturday.

Respondents turn to other stations primarily for music and secondarily for news.

Respondents expressed a strong preference for WBAI to increase its Arts and Culture, Music and News programming. They also requested increased time for Democracy Now- particularly in the form of an evening rebroadcast. They indicated that they would like to hear more programs featuring differences of opinion (such as debates and forums), more educational/informative programs, more free form/talk programs and more listener call-ins.

* Special thanks to Roger Manning and Jonathan Goldberg for their contributions to the computer aspects of this work and to Amy Bauer for helping with the analysis.

In 2004 a 19-item survey was mailed to 18,600 WBAI subscribers along with the WBAI Local Station Board election ballot. Three thousand, two hundred and ninety two (3,292) completed ballots were returned to the station, and 1,977 completed surveys were included with these returned ballots. This report presents a partial analysis of the completed surveys.

Eleven of the survey items supplied response categories. Eight did not, i.e., were open-ended. Each respondent’s answers to the survey items were entered into a computer. Responses to the open-ended questions were not coded, but were merely typed into the appropriate field as written, with the exception that responses over a certain length were only partially recorded. Response frequencies for items with pre-determined response categories were tallied by computer. Responses to the open-ended items were hand tallied. Because the variety of responses to these open-ended questions was so great and the sample was large, analyzing them was extremely time consuming. A choice was made to analyze some of these questions and not others, based on my judgment about how difficult each would be to analyze and how useful would be the information provided by each.



Place of Residence: The first item of the survey asked for the respondent’s address. Seventeen hundred and ninety five (1,795) people answered this question, while 182 people left it blank. Zip codes were used to determine the number and percent of respondents living in each of the five boroughs, in nearby New York State counties and in New Jersey and Connecticut.

Place of
Number of
Percentage of
Manhattan 399 22.2%
Brooklyn 280 15.6%
Queens 180 10.0%
Bronx 88 4.9%
Staten Island 31 1.7%
Nassau/Suffolk 171 9.6%
Westchester/Putnam 108 6.0%
Rockland 34 1.9%
Other NY State 59 1.4%
New Jersey 386 21.5%
Connecticut 46 2.6%
Other 46 2.6%
No Answer 182 N/a

Age: This question had pre-determined response categories. Eighteen hundred and sixty six (1,866) people answered the question. One hundred and eleven (111) did not.

Age Number of
Percentage of
Under 18 1 0.05%
19-29 73 3.9%
30-45 347 18.6%
46-59 721 38.6%
Over 60 724 38.8%
No Answer 111 -

Gender: This question had pre-determined response categories. The number of people responding to this question was 1,833. One hundred and forty four (144) people didn’t answer the question.

Gender* Number of
Percentage of
Female 832 45.3%
Male 1001 54.6%
No Answer 144 N/a

* Based on an examination of what was specified under “other”, I suggest adding the category “transgender” if this survey is repeated.

Ethnic Background: This question had pre-determined response categories. Answers were provided by 1,585 people, while 392 people gave no response.

Ethnic Background** Number of
Percentage of
African 411 25.9%
Asian 37 2.3%
European 982 62.0%
Latino 83 5.2%
Other 72 4.5%
No Answer 392 N/a

** 365 people described themselves in the space provided by this question. Based on their responses, I suggest adding the following alternatives to this question: 1)Middle Eastern, (2)Native American and (3) Multi-ethnic. I also suggest changing “African” to African/Afro-American/ Afro-Caribbean.

Occupation: This question did not have pre-determined response categories. Because categorizing the over 800 different responses to the question would be very time consuming and because occupation, by itself, is not a good indication of class, responses to this question were not analyzed.

Yearly Household Income: This question had pre-determined response categories. It was answered by 1,589 people, while 388 people chose not to answer it.

Household Income
Number of
Percentage of
Less than $30,000 386 24.3%
$30,000-$60,000 577 36.3%
$60,000-$80,000 322 20.3%
Above $80,000 304 19.1%
No response 388 N/a

Language(s) Spoken at Home: This question did not have pre-determined response categories. There were 1,834 classifiable answers to this question. One hundred and thirty people did not respond to the question, and thirteen answers were unclassifiable.

Language Spoken
at Home
Number of
Percentage of
English Only 1,501 81.9%
English plus
one or more other
293 16.0%
Other than English only 40 2.2%
No response 143 N/a

Languages other than English Spoken at Home: Forty-eight languages were mentioned. Those mentioned five times or more were: Spanish (163 mentions), French (53 mentions), German (30 mentions), Arabic (11 mentions), Italian (9 mentions), Creole (9 mentions), Greek (9 mentions), Portuguese (7 mentions), Farsi (6 mentions), Polish (6 mentions), Urdu (6 mentions), Chinese (5 mentions), Tagalog (5 mentions).

Religion: This question had pre-determined response categories. There were 1,308 people who answered the question and 670 who did not.

Religion Number of
Percentage of
Catholic 189 14.5%
Jewish 203 15.4%
Muslim 44 3.4%
Protestant 259 19.8%
None 613 46.9%
No response 670 N/a%

Length of Time a Listener: This question did not have pre-determined responses. There were 1,736 classifiable responses to this question. Responses were grouped into categories

Length of Time
a listener
Number of
Percentage of
Less than a year 13 0.7%
1 year 75 4.3%
2 years 103 6.0%
3 years 95 5.5%
4 years 64 3.7%
5-10 years 429 24.7%
11-20 years 402 23.2%
21-30 years 259 14.9%
31+ years 296 17.1%
No response 222 N/a


What Type of WBAI programs Do You Like?: This question had pre-determined response categories. More than one category could be checked. The question was answered by 1,827 people; 150 people didn’t respond.

Type of
Number of
Percentage of
Total Mentions
Percentage of
Respondents mentioning
News 1,614 34.1 88.3
Health 1,078 22.8 59.0
Music 918 19.4 50.2
Arts/Culture 1,124 23.7 61.6
No Response 150 N/a N/a

What are Your Favorite Programs?: Responses to this question were not pre-determined. More than one response was possible. One thousand eight hundred and forty nine (1,849) people answered the question, while 128 people did not. The overwhelming majority of responses mentioned specific programs. Most of the remainder of the responses cited general categories of programs (e.g., health, music); program formats (e.g., debates, free-form), or times of the day or week (e.g., early morning programming, Sunday afternoon).

With respect to specific programs, the nine most frequently mentioned programs account for 57% of the program citations. These programs, with the number of times they are mentioned and their percent of the total responses, are presented below.

Program Number of
Percentage of
Total Mentions
Percentage of
Respondents mentioning
Democracy Now 1,235 20.8 66.8
Natural Living 543 9.1 29.4
Wake Up Call 335 5.6 18.1
Positive Mind 270 4.5 14.6
Taking Aim 238 4.0 12.9
Talk Back 226 3.8 12.2
Explorations 202 3.4 10.9
News 176 3.0 9.5
Any Saturday 162 2.7 8.8

An additional eighteen programs were mentioned more than 1% of the time. These are, in order of frequency of mention: Hard Work, Caldwell Chronicles, Al Lewis Live, Behind the News, Here of a Sunday Morning, Expert Witness, Earth Watch, Beyond the Pale, Counter Spin, Gary Byrd, As I Please, Free Speech Radio News, Off The Hook, First Voices, On The Count, All Mixed Up, Radio Unnamable, Afrikaleidoscope. These eighteen programs, together with the nine previously mentioned, account for 82% of the total program mentions.

What Programs Should We Have More Of?

Response to this question were not pre-determined. More than one response was possible. One thousand, four hundred and fifty three (1,453) people answered the question, while 520 did not Over three quarters of the responses asked for more programs with a particular content, such as music, science, children’s programs, etc. Some responses asked for more of current programs or programmers, and some asked for particular forms of programs, such as free form, debates, listener call-ins, etc.

Program Content: most frequently requested were arts and culture, music, news and political programs.

Arts/Culture: there were 301 requests for more programs of arts and culture. These included: 93 requests for arts/art; 60 requests for culture; 32 requests for drama/theater; 30 requests for comedy/humor; 21 requests for literature/literary programs; 11 requests for poetry; 10 requests for readings; 10 requests for book reviews/ interviews of or discussions with authors.

Music: there were 261 requests for more music programs. These included 81 requests for more music (unspecified); 49 requests for more classical music; 31 requests for more jazz; 21 requests for more world/ethnic music (as well as 8 requests for the return of Delphine Blue); 16 requests for more folk music; and 8 requests for more country music.

News: there were 261 requests for more news programs. These included 129 requests for news (unspecified); 48 requests for investigative, in-depth reporting /expose; 25 requests for analysis of news; 17 requests for frequent/hourly news updates; 17 requests for world/international news and 12 requests for local news.

Political programs: there were 82 requests for programs grouped in this category. These included 49 requests for political programs or political analysis; 24 mentions of programs dealing with politics; requests for more programs on public affairs.

Other Categories of Program Content: there were 678 requests for more programs with content other than arts/culture, music, news or politics. Requested more than ten times were the following content categories, along with the number of times they were requested: Youth (47); Health (43); History (38); Ecology/Environment (36); Feminist/Women’s (35); Children’s (24); Economics (21); Latino/Latin America (17), Spanish language programs (16); Activism (14); Labor unions (13): Native American (12); Philosophy (12).

More of Current Programs/ Programmers: There were 292 requests for more of particular programs or programmers. Ninety-six (33%) of these were for more Democracy Now/Amy Goodman, including frequent requests for PM rebroadcast. Natural Living/ Gary Null was requested 21 times; Taking Aim/ Schone and Schoenman 15 times; Earthwatch/Robert Knight 12 times; The Positive Mind/ DiMele 11 times. An additional 24 programs/programmers were mentioned more than once.

Forms of Programming: There were 172 requests for particular forms of programming. These included 49 requests for discussion/dialogue/debate/forums; 31 requests for interviews; 22 requests for speeches/lectures/educational programs; 22 requests for free form/talk; 18 requests for listener call-ins; 13 requests for commentaries,, 11 requests for information/informative programs; and 6 requests for documentaries.

Other Suggestions or Ideas?: A statistical analysis of this item was not attempted Because so many of the responses to the question were either unique or repetitive of responses to the previous question, a statistical analysis of this question did not promise to provide enough useful information to justify the time it would require.

What Programs Do You like On Other Radio stations?: This question had no pre-determined responses, and more than one response was possible Three hundred and eighty two people made no response to the question. One hundred and forty responded that they do not listen to other stations. Of the 1,455 people who provided information about their interest in other stations, some cited particular programs or programmers (e.g., Terry Gross, Car Talk), some mentioned particular stations and some mentioned programs with particular content (news, music, etc)

Each response was tallied under only one category (e.g., as either a program, a station or a type of program content) in such a way as to provide the maximum specificity of information. If the name of a program was mentioned it was tallied under that program, not under the station that plays it or the type of program it is. For instance, “Fresh Air on WNYC” was tallied under “Fresh Air” not under “WNYC”. If a station was mentioned by itself, without mention of a program, it was tallied under the station, not under the type of program content. For example, WBGO was tallied under”WBGO”, not under “Jazz”.

The 17 programs most frequently mentioned and the frequencies of mention are: BBC News (77); Lenny Lopate (77); Brian Lehrer (68); All Things Considered (61); Fresh Air (52); Prairie Home Companion (52); This American Life (39); Open Line (38); Car Talk (34); On The Media (18); Morning Edition (16); Sharp Talk (15); Tavis Smiley (11);New Sounds (11); Diane Rehm (9); Selected Shorts (9); Steve Post (8).

The 11 most frequently mentioned stations and the frequencies of mention are: NPR (180); WNYC (95); WGBO (67): WQXR (65); WKCR (47); WFUV (42); WFMU (27); WRKS (18); WRL (15); WLIB (14); WINS (12).

The 15 most frequently mentioned types of program content are: Music-unspecified (130); Classical Music (130); Jazz (119); News (114); Talk Shows (39); Sports (39); Rock (34); Arts/culture (26); Folk Music (21); Political/Politics (20); World/Ethnic Music (18); Health (!8); Weather (15); Interviews (14); Blues (14).

Combining categories gives us additional information. Combining WQXR, WBGO, WFUV, WFMU, WKCR, and all categories of music, for a total of 696 makes clear that respondents’ interest in music predominates in their choice of stations other than WBAI. Combining mentions of WQXR with mentions of classical music and mentions of WGBO with mentions of jazz underlines the extent to which respondents turn to other stations for these types of music in particular.

What Newspapers and Magazines Do You Like? This question had no pre-determined response categories, and more than one answer was possible. One thousand, four hundred and twenty seven 1,427) people mentioned particular magazines and newspapers in response to this question. Three hundred and fifty six people made no response to the question, while 194 people’s responses were either not relevant to the question or indicated that they don’t read any newspapers or magazines. The ten most frequently mentioned publications along with the number of times they were mentioned: The New York Times (529), The Nation (428), Mother Jones (154), The New Yorker (142), Newsday (103), The Village Voice (100), The Progressive (91), Harpers (79), The Amsterdam News (64), and Z (57).


Do You Use the Internet?: This question had pre-determined response categories. It was answered by 1,671 people, while 366 people made no response.

Use of Internet Number of
Percentage of
Rarely 972 60.3%
Weekly 291 18.1%
Daily 348 21.6%
No Response 366 N/a

What Would You Like to See on WBAI’s Web Site?: This question had pre-determined response categories and a space in which to make other suggestions. More than one response was possible. Seven hundred and forty people checked one or more of the three response categories, while 1,237 people did not check any of them. Three hundred and seventy eight people made suggestions on the space provided.

Like to See? Number of
of Total
More News 501 50.9%
Interactive Features 384 39.0%
Online Auction 99 10.1%

Would You Like to See Web Site Services Such As? This question had pre-determined responses, and more than one response was possible. This question was answered by 1,288 people, while 689 made no response.

Like to See? Number of
of Total
Percentage of
Respondents Mentioning
Any Time Archives 1102 46.6 85.6
News Streaming 706 29.8 54.8
Arts/Music Streaming 559 23.6 43.4
No Response 689 N/a N/a

Could You Suggest a Fair (But Modest) Access Fee For The Above WBAI Website Services? This question had pre-determined response categories as well as spaces to make other suggestions. Nine hundred and thirty six people answered this question while 1, 041 did not.

Suggested fee
for members
Suggested fee
for non-members
$25 707 $50 322
$50 203 $100 140

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