Re: “War Of The Worlds” Shocks Portland & N.W.


Thanks Dan and Craig!

What a great topic, especially as it pertains to radio in the West. You may remember that I did an earlier post a few months ago about high levels of radio ownership out here in the 1930s and 1940s:

In looking at a 1940 sociology book about public reaction to the “War of the Worlds” (the book is called “The Invasion From Mars” and is written by Hadley Cantril), I came across another interesting reference to radio listening habits in the West in this period.

Here’s a table from page 57 of Cantril’s book showing regional differences in the percentage of the total available audience who actually tuned in to “War of the Worlds.” It shows the West leading the way by several percentage points, and I’m still not satisfied that anyone can explain why the percentage is so high:

Mountain and Pacific: 20%

Middle Atlantic: 15%

West North Central: 12%

East North Central: 11%

South: 8%

New England: 8%

The table is followed by this paragraph:

“The high percentage of Mountain and Pacific states is undoubtedly due to the fact that LISTENING IN GENERAL IS HIGHEST IN THE FAR WESTERN PART OF THE COUNTRY (caps mine). The low figure for the New England states is due to the fact that Columbia’s Boston outlet (WEEI) did not carry the program.”

This assertion about Western listening in general cites a then-forthcoming book by Frank Stanton (later associated with CBS) called “Measuring the Listening Audience” that I have not been able to locate a copy of (perhaps the title changed?). Anybody know if this book was actually published? Please let me know.

Here’s a link to the relevant page from Cantril’s book via Google: