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Poll: Americans only hate spoilers if they’re not the ones doing the spoiling

Game of Thrones.
Game of Thrones.

One of the most consistent comments Vox receives in response to our culture and entertainment writing is that we too often spoil the plot of a film or TV show for readers who haven’t seen it yet.

Game of Thrones’ sixth season is the most evocative and recent example: Tons of people watch the HBO series, but thanks to streaming options like HBO Go and HBO Now and the convenience of recording it on DVR, not everyone watches the show at the same time, making discussions about the show (in which a lot of stuff happened in each episode this season) inevitably spoilerrific.

So what’s the proper etiquette regarding our collective conversation of each episode? How long must we wait to openly mention that a major character died? When’s the proper time to spill the beans on someone’s newly revealed secret alliance?

There’s even some disagreement among Vox staffers about when it’s fair game to talk freely about spoilers. For example, some of my colleagues are more protective about putting spoilers in headlines, but I’ve always been adamant that anyone who has the passion and the time to post a complaint about being spoiled has no reason to complain, because if they’re that passionate, why haven’t they already seen the episode/movie/whatever in question?

So we decided to ask the public about spoilers.

In a poll conducted by Morning Consult and Vox, we asked Americans how the threat of spoilers affects how they consume entertainment. The results show that while a large majority of people don’t want to be spoiled, lots of those same people are pretty ruthless when it comes to spoiling things for others.

When asked how important is it that a movie or television show is not spoiled before they have a chance to watch it, 50 percent (± 2 percent) of the 1,998 registered voters we polled between June 24 and 27 said it was "very" important, and 30 percent said it was "somewhat" important.

That’s reasonable. But then we asked how much time people should have to watch the episode or movie in question before spoilers are fair game, and the results were both fascinating and unforgiving. Thirty-four percent of respondents said it’s okay to talk about a TV episode right after it finishes airing, and 22 percent said 24 hours was enough of a buffer:

Regarding movies, the majority of respondents — 51 percent— said it’s acceptable to discuss spoilers by the Monday after a movie opens. Twenty-eight percent of respondents said it was okay to discuss spoilers the day after a movie opens:

We also asked people where they tend to read or notice spoilers, either voluntarily or accidentally, and 37 percent of respondents named Facebook. That makes sense, since Facebook newsfeeds can contain posts from friends and family as well as from media outlets.

But only 13 percent of respondents said Twitter spoiled them, which is fascinating considering that Twitter tends to be more rapid-fire and operates in real time (which would be annoying and impossible to follow for anyone who’s watching a show on DVR).

We live in a world where people don’t want to have shows and movies spoiled for them yet are often ready and willing to spoil the same shows and movies for others. Good to know. Also, Jon Snow is alive and Cersei killed a ton of people.

If you happen to be a Morning Consult subscriber, you can head to the company's website to view the poll's full toplines and crosstabs.

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