Top News Anchors Rated Less Positively by Republicans Than Democrats

by Frank Newport and Joseph Carroll

Public rates Charles Gibson, Brian Williams more positively than Katie Couric

GALLUP NEWS SERVICE

PRINCETON, NJ -- The three broadcast network news anchors -- Charles Gibson of ABC News, Katie Couric of CBS News, and Brian Williams of NBC News -- are known well enough to be evaluated by over three-quarters of Americans. Of the three, Couric has the most negative ratings. All three anchors are evaluated more negatively by Republicans than Democrats, apparently reflecting conservatives' complaints with the so-called mainstream media. Couric has no particular advantage among women.

Background

The three traditional evening network newscasts on ABC, CBS, and NBC now exist in a world in which their primacy as Americans' top source for news has diminished significantly. Americans can turn to cable news channels and the Internet for news 24 hours a day, reducing the need or interest in watching the 30-minute news summaries each night.

But the network newscasts are not yet extinct. Gallup's December update on news shows that 35% of Americans say they watch the nightly network news programs "every day" while another 16% say they watch several times each week. Only 19% say they never watch the evening news.

And there continues to be an apparent fascination with the newscasters chosen by each network to anchor the newscasts. Within the last several years, there has been a total turnover in these anchors, with considerable news coverage of the transitions. At ABC, the late Peter Jennings was replaced by the team of Bob Woodruff and Elizabeth Vargas. After Woodruff was severely injured while covering the war in Iraq, he and Vargas were replaced by the venerable Charles Gibson. At CBS, Dan Rather was replaced temporarily by Bob Schieffer who in turn, with much fanfare, was replaced by the first solo female anchor in the history of the evening newscasts, the former Today Show co-host Katie Couric. And at NBC, perhaps the smoothest transition was effected when Tom Brokaw retired and was replaced by heir apparent Brian Williams.

Name Recognition

The April 23-26, 2007 Gallup Panel poll asked Americans about each of the current evening news anchors. The results show that Couric is slightly better known than the other two.

 

Familiarity With Nightly News Anchors, April 23-26, 2007

 

Give either a positive or negative opinion of anchor

Do not know enough about the anchor to give an opinion

 

%

%

Katie Couric

84

16

Charles Gibson

78

23

Brian Williams

77

24

Eighty-four percent of Americans know enough about Couric to be able to rate her, compared with 78% and 77% for Gibson and Williams, respectively.

Not surprisingly, Americans who report watching the nightly network news on television frequently or occasionally are much more likely to be familiar with each of the three anchors than those who rarely or never watch the evening news. Still, Couric remains more familiar among those who do not regularly watch the nightly news than those who watch it frequently or occasionally.

 

Familiarity of Nightly News Anchors by Frequency of Evening News Viewing, April 23-26, 2007

 

Katie Couric

Charles Gibson

Brian Williams

 

Familiar with

Not familiar

Familiar with

Not familiar

Familiar with

Not familiar

 

%

%

%

%

%

%

Watch frequently

87

13

81

19

85

15

Watch occasionally

93

7

85

15

81

19

Rarely/Never watch

70

30

63

38

56

44

Americans Rate Network News Anchors

Americans are generally more positive than negative about all three of these news anchors, but the data make it clear that Couric is the most controversial of the three.

  • Sixty-two percent of Americans have a very or somewhat positive opinion of Gibson, while 16% have a negative opinion of the ABC anchor.
  • Williams' ratings are similar to Gibson's, with 59% of Americans rating the NBC anchor positively and 18% negatively.
  • Couric's ratings are somewhat lower than both of her competitors -- 51% positively rate the CBS anchor, while her 33% negative rating is easily the highest.

The Political Dimension

Conservatives and Republicans have in recent years increased their attacks on the so-called "mainstream media," which they often decry as too liberal. A Gallup poll in September 2006 found, for example, that three in four Republicans said that the news media were too liberal.

This may help explain why Republicans have more negative opinions about all three of these news anchors than do independents or Democrats.

This partisan gap is significant. There is a 29-percentage-point difference in the positive rating given Couric between Republicans and Democrats, a 15-point gap for Gibson, and a 28-point gap for Williams.

 

Network News Anchors' Ratings by Party Affiliation, April 23-26, 2007

 

Katie Couric

Charles Gibson

Brian Williams

 

+

-

DK

+

-

DK

+

-

DK

 

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

Republicans

36

49

14

56

26

18

47

31

21

Independents

49

32

17

59

15

27

53

20

28

Democrats

65

20

15

71

6

23

75

5

20

                   

NOTE: + indicates those with a very or somewhat positive opinion of the anchor.

- indicates those with a very or somewhat negative opinion of the anchor.

DK refers to those who have never heard or don't know enough to rate the anchor.

On a relative basis, Couric remains the most negatively evaluated of the three anchors across all political groups. Gibson is the only anchor viewed positively by a majority of Republicans and Democrats.

There is a similar pattern in the opinions of the anchors among conservatives, moderates, and liberals. Conservatives are less positive in their assessment of all three news anchors. Conservatives, moderates, and liberals rate Couric more negatively than they do Gibson or Williams.

 

Network News Anchors' Ratings by Political Ideology, April 23-26, 2007

 

Katie Couric

Charles Gibson

Brian Williams

 

+

-

DK

+

-

DK

+

-

DK

 

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

Conservatives

39

44

17

52

27

21

47

29

24

Moderates

58

24

17

66

7

27

65

10

25

Liberals

63

24

13

74

5

21

70

10

20

                   

NOTE: + indicates those with a very or somewhat positive opinion of the anchor.

- indicates those with a very or somewhat negative opinion of the anchor.

DK refers to those who have never heard or don't know enough to rate the anchor.

Frequent Viewers

Americans who frequently watch the nightly news programs are equally likely to have a positive opinion of Gibson and Williams, at 68% and 69%, respectively. Couric's ratings are lower among frequent watchers, at 52%. All three anchors are rated similarly among occasional watchers. The "don't know" factor is higher among those Americans who rarely or never watch the evening news, but among those who do have an opinion, Couric has a significantly higher ratio of negative to positive opinions than the other two anchors.

 

Network News Anchors' Ratings by Frequency of Evening News Viewing, April 23-26, 2007

 

Katie Couric

Charles Gibson

Brian Williams

 

+

-

DK

+

-

DK

+

-

DK

 

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

Watch frequently

52

35

13

68

13

19

69

16

15

Watch occasionally

63

30

7

68

17

15

60

21

19

Rarely/never watch

39

32

30

46

17

38

38

18

43

                   

NOTE: + indicates those with a very or somewhat positive opinion of the anchor.

- indicates those with a very or somewhat negative opinion of the anchor.

DK refers to those who have never heard or don't know enough to rate the anchor.

Little Relative Gender Advantage for Couric

Women are both more likely to watch the network newscasts and more likely to be Democrats.

It follows, therefore, that women would be more positive in their assessment of all three news anchors:

Network News Anchors' Ratings by Gender, April 23-26, 2007

 

Katie Couric

Charles Gibson

Brian Williams

 

+

-

DK

+

-

DK

+

-

DK

 

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

Men

46

37

17

56

22

22

53

25

22

Women

56

30

15

67

9

24

64

11

25

                   

NOTE: + indicates those with a very or somewhat positive opinion of the anchor.

- indicates those with a very or somewhat negative opinion of the anchor.

DK refers to those who have never heard or don't know enough to rate the anchor.

Interestingly, despite the buzz about her being the first solo female network news anchor, Couric has no distinct gender advantage. Even though women rate Couric more positively than do men, the same applies to Gibson and Williams. In fact, women are more likely to have positive opinions and less likely to have negative opinions of both Gibson and Williams than is the case for Couric.

The Age Factor

Ratings of the three news anchors are lower among senior citizens than they are among those under age 65, likely because higher percentages of seniors are not familiar with the three anchors. This is a bit surprising, given that the audience for the three evening newscasts skews older.

Among younger Americans, Couric's ratings are lower than those of her counterparts at ABC News and NBC News. But, the difference in ratings among the three is not that disparate. Among adults 18 to 49, there is only a six-point gap between Couric and Williams and a nine-point gap between Couric and Gibson. Among those 50 to 64, there is a 15-point gap between Couric and Gibson, but only a 6-point gap between Couric and Williams.

 

Network News Anchors' Ratings by Age, April 23-26, 2007

 

Katie Couric

Charles Gibson

Brian Williams

 

+

-

DK

+

-

DK

+

-

DK

 

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

18-49

55

31

14

64

13

10

61

16

23

50-64

50

35

15

65

17

17

56

22

22

65+

41

35

24

51

18

31

53

21

26

                   

NOTE: + indicates those with a very or somewhat positive opinion of the anchor.

- indicates those with a very or somewhat negative opinion of the anchor.

DK refers to those who have never heard or don't know enough to rate the anchor.

Survey Methods

Results for this panel study are based on telephone interviews with 1,007 national adults, aged 18 and older, conducted April 23-26, 2007. Respondents were drawn from Gallup's nationally representative household panel, which was originally recruited through random selection methods. For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±4 percentage points. In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.

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